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I got asked this question on a job interview, I am not sure if this is a right place to ask but here it is:

If Abraham Lincoln were to give an address today, what would he say about us?

Hint: 63, 103, 2, 18, 10, 29, 2, 1, 10, 4

I am really curious about this, can anyone help?

edit:

I am pretty new to deciphering, but I have tried ASCII, mod 26, spelled-out letters, cellphone numpad, and some other common methods to solve this, but all didn't lead to a make sense answer.

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    $\begingroup$ He would say, "You shouldn't work for a company that gives weird interview questions." ;) $\endgroup$ – Aza Feb 5 '16 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Emrakul Exactly what I thought at the moment. This is way too "advanced" for interview. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Lau Feb 5 '16 at 23:08
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    $\begingroup$ Using the numbers to index into the Gettysburg Address by words or by letters doesn't turn up anything useful either. $\endgroup$ – f'' Feb 6 '16 at 1:48
  • $\begingroup$ I guess this is just a poorly-hint puzzle then.. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Lau Feb 6 '16 at 3:53
  • $\begingroup$ @f'' That was my first thought too. $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Feb 6 '16 at 5:56
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I plotted the distribution of the numbers and got a nice half-bell shaped curve, making me think it was the first occurence of a character in some text. Since I am Swedish, I know very little of Lincoln and started with the Gettysburg Address.

It turns out the transcriptions of the speech varies a bit. The versions seem to differ whether they spell "Fourscore" or "Four score" as well as commas here and there. In any case, the first four letters seemed to be invariant. Hence:

1-F, 2-o, 4-r => _ _ o _ _ _ o F _ r

Next, I wrote a Python script going through the text printing the first occurence of every letter. I tried both including spaces, periods, and commas, as well as excluding them. However, the first occurences when excluding these characters did not line up nicely with the given numbers.

In the transcript with all characters, only one letter was close to place 103, namely

L, which had its first occurence at place 107 in my transcription, we now have _ L o _ _ _ o F _ r

If picking a version spelling "Four score" using commas in the first paragraph, such as this, all other numbers line up exactly with the first occurrence of a letter. The resulting text is

iLovegoFer -- I love gofer

Could this be correct?

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  • $\begingroup$ if you change the opening line to reflect the current year, does that change your results? $\endgroup$ – Kate Gregory Feb 6 '16 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ That is definitely the correct answer ! Thanks. But I am still confused though, how would a comma change the first occurence of any letter? So did you count comma as a location as well ? $\endgroup$ – Matthew Lau Feb 6 '16 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ @MatthewLau Yes, I included all characters rather than just letters; I should have written that instead. For instance, a version could read "ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a" with or without commas. Stripping both those commas would mean all characters occurring their first times after that part could occur 2 characters earlier in another transcript. $\endgroup$ – Block Feb 6 '16 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ What does "I love gofer" mean, and how is this related to Lincoln? $\endgroup$ – Julian Rosen Feb 6 '16 at 22:07
  • $\begingroup$ @MatthewLau You say "That is definitely the correct answer" , though I thought you did not know the correct answer. Are you sure this is correct? I am skeptical, because "I love gofer" seems to be grammatically incorrect, and I see no connection to Lincoln. $\endgroup$ – Julian Rosen Feb 6 '16 at 22:10

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