# Words with a Mask - Looking for Truth

An opportunity to pull back masks and bring light to truth.

IWOKKXCXMBKSXWTKRYTNXMSTRNXIMSXTXVICXBMTTKBYHKHTRX SVWXMZYITBWOXBHYHMHBZHYXSXQMRWKYTDKMYIRXMHLHMICYIR VTHMZSOYIHHTVZKHKSDHSISTWHTMXJBMXSKOTRXRZTMMDIMLIK XKSOTWMYXSVBMPZXIICHRBSYTRIOICOISONZOMTXMMNITWYXBT SYIRKHSTOTBXBXNTVMTWPZXNTYHTHRSIBHZTMZWOTMXKSZKMOS XXMKLTKBMTIDSMIQZYITBXPIHLPKXCXMKBKXTZIKSXNXIIHMSB IMTILBTMITXIIHPMMSOTLMXZZITWHDBDHHLHMKTXRCZIHTHMXH IKVTHHNZIKOSKSYTITSTHMRSVZYXXMIPXVXSHSKXICKMTTXHNS MXLIKTKBSXTVMKDHZIIHMHKMBSYHMHBMZVICHNBTICMTIBPZSN HXSMTHHTTIIWPMXHPYLIKSMZBHBSXHWHYTIHBKBNXIWHOIXSKX LZTRSIKORDTITSYIRITIIWXJHICWXDTMMMXCMMOSXBHMBSITIH ZHPXCRSPXMMZOKOTBIMZKRTTKDIHXMHOPZMXKLROMHLZRKMYIR TMIQHNSIBRINTMYBWXLORMXSTMWOTZSPBSXTLXBIMTTKBRHQXT WKHTKBSZISTMPHMXICMIMTRTTXCMMDHIPHYHXOIHMXSHSPXDHT XSHXKYCRTNMDSINSIIIWXHMYHTTOMTMHPCZHXMMNZXMNXVOISZ DZSKXRWTKBMIQHMZBWHWPBWODHTXDPBWXMISIYNITWYXSXYHRM IXMTNMWOOSXSYIRKMMOMKHNTMYBWZTBXIMZOKOYIRXRVTHTHXN SMXIINTHKMMIBMTHNSMXXSTOAXSIKOXRHZTITSTQXSXLWYLXXB XLSXVZLMTZIXTTLMXZLWOKHDBYHXTROMTMZVTHZDXQTRYXBHMT NZDOMXIIHKYDHXRMRWOTOTVTHSXIMTYTSXSTMWKXVHTROSMHIZ NRWXDXIIHTMIICHVBMXISLTTMKYISTMICWKLVTXYSXTYIRZRCI DSYZYXBXQHTLMXZOVHDBTKBSHVBMYHIYHBMINZISKOKSXSKORX YTSMSCXTMZDTVW

I can't say who original artist of my words is, for it would shortcut your puzzling.

Hints:

Two masks lay upon my words. In my masks, you'll find substitution and transposition. My words hail from a book that first saw print in 1939. My words try to point out a trick.

Big Hint:

What did I omit? Finding a book will aid you.

Small Hint:

A ban on glyphs blocks naming 1 of my masks; look high and look low, the truth will fall in two.

• I'm afraid I'm going to point you once again to meta.puzzling.stackexchange.com/questions/1717/… and suggest that without more information this is not likely to be much fun to solve. – Gareth McCaughan Oct 7 '16 at 10:43
• A massive hint is in my phrasing. I'm omitting a thing most would not. I still am, in fact. – qwertyu63 Oct 7 '16 at 13:16
• 1939 and not 1969? – Rand al'Thor Oct 7 '16 at 13:22
• 1939, but your path is almost right. – qwertyu63 Oct 7 '16 at 13:23
• Aha, Wright. Fair. – Gareth McCaughan Oct 7 '16 at 13:26

Warning: Stream of consciousness ahead. If you just want the answer, skip to the last spoilered paragraph (but you will need to read back a little to find one important detail).

So, first of all, notice that

all the descriptive text is missing the letter E

and that the hints make it clear that

this is not coincidence, and furthermore indicate that the text we are looking at comes from the E-less book Gadsby, published in 1939.

Note also that

the ciphertext itself is E-less.

Now, we are told that the cipher involves both substitution and transposition. That's pretty scary, so it's reasonable to hope that at least one of the constituent ciphers is reasonably simple. We're told that one of them

can't be named because of the no-E restriction.

Obvious guesses are Vigenere (but I think combining this with a transposition cipher would yield something much too difficult to crack without more information than we have) and Caesar, but the other rather cryptic remark in that hint doesn't seem like it fits that; I wonder whether it describes some sort of transposition cipher.

Another feature of the ciphertext that seems informative is that

its letter distribution is very uneven, as much so as ordinary text. (More so, in fact, because there are no fewer than four missing letters: E,F,G,U.) This strongly suggests that the non-transposition element of the cipher is a simple substitution of some kind.

So, what is our plaintext? An obvious guess would be

the opening of Gadsby. Alas, our ciphertext has 1114 letters and the opening few paragraphs of Gadsby have 1104 (and the next 10 letters don't form a whole number of words). Neither does any set of words from "Gadsby Ernest Vincent Wright" have 10 letters. None the less, the letter-frequencies are suspiciously similar. The commonest letters in our ciphertext are T (120), X (118), M (117), I (106), H (97), S (80). The commonest letters in the opening 1104 letters of Gadsby are A (119), O (117), T (117), I (106), N (97), S (79). Surely these are more or less the same text.

OK, then.

The obvious next thing is to pair off letters by frequency, see whether the substitution this yields is a particularly simple one, and then see whether we can figure out what transposition needs to be combined with it. Presumably along the way we will figure out the 10-letter discrepancy. We have an immediate little obstacle: O and T are equally frequent in the conjectured plaintext and it's not obvious which corresponds to X and which to M. There are a few other pairings that are a bit uncertain for similar reasons. But the correspondence seems to be roughly as follows: plaintext above, ciphertext below, alternate possibilities below pairs that are doubtful, - for letters that don't occur at all.

 ABCD-FGHI-KLMNOPQRSTUVW-Y- TVYR-PCKI-QBDHXNAZSMOJL-W- L M X D

The extra letters are

TXSZRWDVCP in the ciphertext, which correspond to A{O,T}SRDY{M,W}BGF in the plaintext. Six of these are the letters of GADSBY, which seems a very likely thing to be "extra"; the others are {O,T}R{M,Y}F so maybe it's FROM GADSBY. That would mean that ciphertext X,D are plaintext O,M rather than T,Y, which is why I have them that way around in the table above. If there's any particular reason why this substitution rather than another, it's not obvious to me.

So now we can

perform the substitutions and see what our ciphertext looks like; hopefully all that remains is to figure out the transposition involved. I guess "FROMGADSBY" will be at either the beginning or the end of the plaintext; the end would seem more obvious.

Here's what we get (40 letters per line):