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(First time posting, let me know if this isn't right. All things in this post except this are relevant, so don't edit.)

Recently my buddy George texted me this:

WQ RAR I KE Q V UKE 0D3 WQ U2 CD H D3 KE 76S 84 CN8 :)

I asked him what he meant by that. He said to go post it on Puzzling.SE. So here we are.

I then asked how to write a good challenge if I don't know what it's even about.

He then sent me this:

The key is keep it clear and let them know what you need".

That message sounds strange and vague.

Clearly he's on to something, but what?

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    $\begingroup$ Just so you know, a strategy is often to wait a little while (even after the correct answer is posted) to accept the answer. It draws more people in to view your puzzle, as many will just pass over solved puzzles. This gives you and the solver a better chance for up-votes. $\endgroup$
    – Aggie Kidd
    Jan 28, 2016 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ @AggieKidd OK, thanks! I'll keep that in mind. $\endgroup$ Jan 28, 2016 at 23:03

1 Answer 1

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The message is

A Winner Is You!

The major hint was

The smiley at the end of the encrypted message: it's a smile cipher

So we decode the message using the given key, which is

literally keep it clear and let them know what you need".

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  • $\begingroup$ Correct! I'll accept in a minute (it currently says I can't). $\endgroup$ Jan 28, 2016 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ how does the smile cipher work? I can't find any info on it $\endgroup$
    – Slepz
    Jan 28, 2016 at 22:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Slepz Short answer: I'm not sure. Longer answer: it substitutes characters with different permutations of the tokens, which are somehow dictated by the key. It always gives one more permutation than characters in the message, and it's not one-to-one, so I assume that one of the permutations (probably either the first or the last) is randomly generated and important in encoding/decoding. $\endgroup$
    – Will
    Jan 28, 2016 at 23:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Will Can you explain how you deciphered it? I don't understand how you got your solution from the ciphertext and the key. $\endgroup$ Jan 29, 2016 at 5:52
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    $\begingroup$ @GentlePurpleRain on that website he linked to put as Key keep it clear and let them know what you need". and leave the Tokens as is and as message WQ RAR I KE Q V UKE 0D3 WQ U2 CD H D3 KE 76S 84 CN8 and then click decrypt $\endgroup$ Jan 29, 2016 at 12:59

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