Traditionally, after the limerick from Peru comes one with even fewer lines revealed:

There once was a man from Verdun,
Ekptl hkndekbmq eff oopqvodw ro gkhl uhr.
Ol onrh lts r fbel,
Gash ona hrm kh Odez,
Rmw bshobrodw onmp qpah lsa gzh.

Can you figure out what encryption method is being used on the second line (since I'm sure you've figured out by now what the plaintext is), and use that knowledge to figure out how this Verdunnian man's limerick went?

Note: each line is encrypted separately, and it's not a Vigenère cipher this time around.

The key is a writer of complete nonsense.

  • $\begingroup$ what, Edward Lear? $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Apr 24, 2015 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ Joe Z. i don't think you're playing fair, oopqvodw has 1 letter to many $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Apr 24, 2015 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ It's a traditional mark of the Playfair cipher to insert an "x" between double letters. $\endgroup$
    – user88
    Apr 24, 2015 at 16:15

1 Answer 1


Well it took me way to long but I got it :)

First the hint (which was highly necessary to decrypt it)

The key is a writer of complete nonsense.

$ $

This is pretty literal (pun intended) since it referred to Edward Lear, the author of a book titled The Complete Nonsense of Edward Lear, a book full of limericks. So let's assume that EdwardLear is the key.

So now we have the key but what then?

Well we start trying ciphers, I tried to use a program for this but in the end decided to use Rumkin, sure i had to do it by hand for the ciphers it has but at least I knew it'd go as I wanted. Once I'd tried some I came to the Playfair cipher and finally I saw the text I wanted: Whose limericks all stopxped at line one well almost the x shouldn't be there.

Then it was quite trivial to get the rest:

He then got a clue
From the man in Peru
And completed this poem for fun

Though i do not know why:

we had to translate the letter J into I, if there had been such a clue i would have sooner thought about a play fair cipher. Even P (peru) into V (verdun) would have made more sense to me.

  • $\begingroup$ So, you used rumkin.com/tools/cipher/playfair.php ? I tried to insert "Ekptl hkndekbmq eff oopqvodw ro gkhl uhr." into it, but got nothing relevant. What did I do wrong? $\endgroup$
    – leoll2
    Apr 24, 2015 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ @leoll2 did you set it to decrypt? $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Apr 24, 2015 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ Playfair: decrypt mode, translate J into I, encode double, blank alphabet key, message "Ekptl hkndekbmq eff oopqvodw ro gkhl uhr". What I get is "Zeoun fhpcdgelr aki lnolqiyr mm iigp qgs" $\endgroup$
    – leoll2
    Apr 24, 2015 at 13:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @leoll2 well ofcourse you need the key, sorry was i not clear: "Edward Lear" should be the key? I've edited my answer to make it more clear hopefully, if not feel free to adjust it for readability $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Apr 24, 2015 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ The stuff about inserting X between double letters and transcribing J into I are all quirks of the cipher itself. I haven't done anything nonstandard. $\endgroup$
    – user88
    Apr 24, 2015 at 16:17

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