It's 6:10 am.

Just a few minutes ago, I heard a loud knocking on my door. I dragged myself out of bed to see what emergency required disturbing my sleep at such an unpleasant time of day — ready to give an earful to someone if this wasn't really urgent — but to my surprise, there was nobody at the door!

But, glancing down, I saw an envelope on the ground just beyond the doorway, weighted with a rock from the garden. I picked it up carefully, avoiding touching it directly in case there were fingerprints to preserve or any such thing, and brought it inside.

On the outside of the envelope, in bold letters, were the words


Inside was what appeared to be a hotel key card, and a folded piece of paper. I turned my attention first to the card.

card-front         card-back

Nothing particularly stood out to me about the key-card. Not really sure what to make of it, I set it aside and turned to the paper.

Unfolding the paper revealed the inside to be covered in ... well ... nonsense:

Jrjntbyg Oya bu y obiibewgv vbjr int jr. B vyfr xrta urtbnwuga swruvbnku ni zyt yko qryer. B mrgbrxr vdyv knk-xbngrker bu vdr tbldv qyvd int dwjyk mrbklu vn qwtuwr. Gbfr jyka ni anw, qrtdyqu, B uvtwllgr vn ibko y zya vn rhqtruu vdyv B uwqqntv vdr xygwr ni vdr gbxru yko urtxber ni jrk yko znjrk zdn urtxr bk vdr jbgbvyta rxrk bi B qyuubnkyvrga obuyltrr zbvd vdr qytvbewgyt zyt nt rxrk jntr lrkrtygga, jbgbvyta qwtuwbvu. Knvdbkl yv ygg ymnwv orygbkl zbvd zyt yko gnuu bu ryua nt ubjqgr. Jrjntbyg Oya yko Xrvrtyk’u Oya orjyko vdyv B ztruvgr egnurga zbvd ygg ja enkigbevbkl irrgbklu. Int rhyjqgr, B yojbv vdyv vdrtr ytr jyka trxngwvbnku, knv vdr gryuv ni zdbed vdr Yjrtbeyk Trxngwvbnk, zdbed krroro vn mr inwldv. B wkortuvyko zda qrnqgr znwgo ibldv vn qtnvrev vdr gyko vdra gbxr nk. B eyk ltyuq zda yggbru znwgo uwqqntv nkr yknvdrt zdrk yk ylltruunt yvvyefu.

Jnortk zytu urrj jwed gruu egryt. Ja iyvdrt, y Xbrvkyj Xrvrtyk, zyu, yu B dyxr udytro mrintr, uqbv wqnk zdrk dr ibkbudro dbu urtxber, int zdbed dr xngwkvrrtro. Dr bu knv vdr uyjr jyk zdn zrkv vn zyt, B dyxr mrrk vngo…vdnwld B zyu vnn anwkl vn fknz nt enjqytr. Un B irrg bk ja mnoa vdyv obiirtrker mrvzrrk vdr ungobrt yko vdr zyt. Vdrk enjru Ymw Ldtybm, yko B yj yv ury ylybk. B fknz vdyv ungobrtu ytr dwjyk; unjr mrvvrt vdyk nvdrtu. B zntta ymnwv zdyv zyt onru vn orerkv qrnqgr rxrtazdrtr yko ykazdrtr. B dyxr kn ubjqgr irrgbklu ymnwv zytu, vdr qrnqgr zdn ibldv vdrj, vdr enwkvtbru vdyv uvytv vdrj, vdr uauvrju vdyv uwuvybk vdrj.

Mwv bv dyu neewttro vn jr vdyv B onk’v dyxr vn dyxr ubjqgr nt egryt irrgbklu. Gnuu yko xbngrker ytr krxrt ubjqgr buuwru, yko vdra udnwgok’v mr. Bk gbir, zr ytr eyggro vn ibko nwt zya vdtnwld, nkr zya nt yknvdrt. Dyxbkl unjr iybvd drgqu.

Jrjntbyg Oya zyu niibebygga oregytro nk Jya 5, 1868, ma Lrkrtyg Cndk Gnlyk, yko zyu ibtuv enjjrjntyvro nk Jya 30 ni vdyv uyjr aryt. Bvu qwtqnur bu vn dnknt nwt zyt oryo, zdbgr Xrvrtyk’u Oya dnkntu vdnur xrvrtyku zdn uwtxbxro vdrbt vbjr ni urtxber.

Jrjntbyg Oya yufu wu vn qnkort yk bjqntvykv swruvbnk: zdyv on vdr gbxbkl nzr vdr oryo? Ruqrebygga bi zr mrgbrxr vdyv vdr oryo urtxro wu, niirtro wq, yu Gbkengk nker oruetbmro bv, “vdr ibkyg jryuwtr ni orxnvbnk, ni iborgbva?” Zdyv vdrk, bu vdrbt owr, vdnur zdn dyxr qyuuro itnj nwt qtrurker?

Jrjntbyg Oya yufu wu vn jyfr y uqrebibe trjrjmtyker: vn trjrjmrt vdnur zdn dyxr iyggrk bk myvvgr, vn trjrjmrt vdnur zdn lyxr vdrbt gbxru bk urtxber vn vdbu enwkvta. Bv urrju vn jr yk bjqntvykv swruvbnk vn yuf bu, “ytr zr urtxbkl nwt enwkvta? Ytr zr uyirlwytobkl bvu qtnjbur? Ytr zr yeerqvbkl truqnkubmbgbva int bvu oruvbka?” Bi zr dyxr yka knvbnk vdyv jrk yko znjrk dyxr obro qtnvrevbkl vdbu qytvbewgyt knvbnk ni itrronj, vdbu qytvbewgyt rhqtruubnk ni y lnxrtkjrkv ma yko int qrnqgr, vdrk zdyv owr on zr nzr vdrj? Jytbykkr Zbggbyjunk, bk drt mnnf Drygbkl vdr Unwg ni Yjrtbey, uyau: “Bi rknwld Yjrtbeyku znwgo uya, B zbgg kn gnklrt zyved vnn jwed VX; bi rknwld Yjrtbeyku znwgo uya, B zbgg tryo mnnfu B fknz B udnwgo tryo; bi rknwld Yjrtbeyku znwgo uya, B zbgg urrf ja uqbtbvwyg kyvwtr; bi rknwld Yjrtbeyku znwgo uya, B zbgg xnvr bk rxrta rgrevbnk; bi rknwld Yjrtbeyku znwgo uya, B zbgg on vdr vdbklu B fknz bk ja drytv B udnwgo on, yko jyfr y qyuubnkyvr uvyko int vdr edyklru B irrg ytr bjqntvykv – vdrk Yjrtbey znwgo vtykuintj.”

Yko qrtdyqu vdrk vdr oryo znwgo dyxr vdrbt owr.

Zdyv zr on zbvd nwt gbxru bu zdyv zr niirt wq vn nwt mrgnxro oryo. Dnz zr trjrjmrt vdrj, yko uqryf ni vdrj, bu dnz vdra yedbrxr “uwtr bjjntvygbva.” Vdrtr ytr vnn irz nqqntvwkbvbru vn uqryf vnlrvdrt yu y enjjwkbva, vrgg vdr uvntbru ni vdnur zdn gbxro, gnxro wu, yko griv wu mrdbko bk oryvd. Grv wu vyfr vdr vbjr vdbu jntkbkl vn trjrjmrt, vn dnknt, vn udytr vdr uvnta ni vdnur zdn urtxro nk nwt mrdygi. Bk vdr vbjr zr dyxr vnlrvdrt, grv wu vrgg nkr yknvdrt uvntbru ni vdnur zdnur gbir dyu jyor y obiirtrker. Unjr ni vdr uvntbru jya mr ymnwv qrnqgr zdn dyxr knv obro, mwv ytr urtxbkl nt dyxr urtxro, cwuv yu B jrkvbnkro ja oyo, yko knz ja ltykoiyvdrt, zdn urtxro owtbkl Zntgo Zyt BB, mwv zdn ygun dyu lbxrk ja gbir jnuv ni vdr ltyer knvru bv dyu dyo. Dr yko ja ltykojnvdrt jyor un jyka vdbklu qnuubmgr int jr vdyv znwgo nvdrtzbur krxrt dyxr enjr vn qyuu: vrggbkl jr uvntbru ni dbu edbgodnno, bkvtnowebkl jr vn rhvrkoro iyjbga, urkobkl jr vn eyjq, mwabkl jr mtyeru. Grv wu vyfr vdr vbjr vn uqryf gnxbklga ni nwt oryo nt vdnur zdn urtxro.

At the bottom was this bit that at least looked like English, but what its meaning might be eluded me, and eludes me still:

Find the source to find six digits.
Use the digits to read my message.

$\begin{array}{rllllll} 1 & You & sacrifice & us & our & things & freely \\ 2 & Today & gave & to & give & live & barbeque \\ 3 & Your & deserve & everything & to & a & tag \\ 4 & We & allow & made & the & serve & perspective \\ 5 & Every & fought & with & we & world & freedom \\ 6 & A & sleep & more & a & your & remembers \\ 7 & Soldiers & in & because & for & celebrate & better \\ 8 & Memorial & comes & dearly & you & bled & on \\ 9 & Freedom & paid & when & make & price & free \\ 0 & They & day & so & than & precious & tirelessly \\ \end{array}$

Big parts of this feel strangely familiar, but I can't quite figure out how. Maybe it's that I'm still half asleep but I can't seem to remember why the obvious cipher on the message seems like something I've seen before. I'm sure if I could just figure out the encryption this would be so simple, but the only cipher I seem to be able to remember right now doesn't seem to be working. So I'm putting the whole thing up here, in the hopes one of you clever people can help me.

What am I forgetting?

What is the message my furtive visitor is trying to send me?

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ tl:dr - trick question, Rubio doesn't forget things $\endgroup$
    – n_plum
    May 29, 2017 at 11:43
  • $\begingroup$ What a nice puzzle. I saw the answers and it is really nice. Great job! $\endgroup$
    – user64742
    May 30, 2017 at 2:22

2 Answers 2


What you should be remembering is...

the people who died while serving the country, as it is Memorial Day.

The cipher is

A keyed Caesar cipher (as clued by Caesar Palace) with key "HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY" (A DAPPER MAY HOMILY anagrammed), and offset 3 ("use key and rotate 3 times").

These hints are also doing double duty on cluing the subject matter of the puzzle, since the plaintext is a homily about Memorial Day, and Caesar Palace's tagline, "Nothing left to be desired except coming back" could also apply to fallen soldiers in war.

As pointed out by @Pjotr5,

If we google the original text, the first URL that pops up is 'http://uuroanoke.org/sermon/050529MemDay.htm'. The original plaintext can also be found there.

Now if we take the six digits displayed and take the words from those rows we get the message:

They fought so we live free.


Memorial Day is a difficult time for me. I take very seriously questions of war and peace. I believe that non-violence is the right path for human beings to pursue. Like many of you, perhaps, I struggle to find a way to express that I support the value of the lives and service of men and women who serve in the military even if I passionately disagree with the particular war or even more generally, military pursuits. Nothing at all about dealing with war and loss is easy or simple. Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day demand that I wrestle closely with all my conflicting feelings. For example, I admit that there are many revolutions, not the least of which the American Revolution, which needed to be fought. I understand why people would fight to protect the land they live on. I can grasp why allies would support one another when an aggressor attacks.

Modern wars seem much less clear. My father, a Vietnam Veteran, was, as I have shared before, spit upon when he finished his service, for which he volunteered. He is not the same man who went to war, I have been told…though I was too young to know or compare. So I feel in my body that difference between the soldier and the war. Then comes Abu Ghraib, and I am at sea again. I know that soldiers are human; some better than others. I worry about what war does to decent people everywhere and anywhere. I have no simple feelings about wars, the people who fight them, the countries that start them, the systems that sustain them.

But it has occurred to me that I don’t have to have simple or clear feelings. Loss and violence are never simple issues, and they shouldn’t be. In life, we are called to find our way through, one way or another. Having some faith helps.

Memorial Day was officially declared on May 5, 1868, by General John Logan, and was first commemorated on May 30 of that same year. Its purpose is to honor our war dead, while Veteran’s Day honors those veterans who survived their time of service.

Memorial Day asks us to ponder an important question: what do the living owe the dead? Especially if we believe that the dead served us, offered up, as Lincoln once described it, “the final measure of devotion, of fidelity?” What then, is their due, those who have passed from our presence? Memorial Day asks us to make a specific remembrance: to remember those who have fallen in battle, to remember those who gave their lives in service to this country. It seems to me an important question to ask is, “are we serving our country? Are we safeguarding its promise? Are we accepting responsibility for its destiny?” If we have any notion that men and women have died protecting this particular notion of freedom, this particular expression of a government by and for people, then what due do we owe them? Marianne Williamson, in her book Healing the Soul of America, says: “If enough Americans would say, I will no longer watch too much TV; if enough Americans would say, I will read books I know I should read; if enough Americans would say, I will seek my spiritual nature; if enough Americans would say, I will vote in every election; if enough Americans would say, I will do the things I know in my heart I should do, and make a passionate stand for the changes I feel are important – then America would transform.” And perhaps then the dead would have their due.

What we do with our lives is what we offer up to our beloved dead. How we remember them, and speak of them, is how they achieve “sure immortality.” There are too few opportunities to speak together as a community, tell the stories of those who lived, loved us, and left us behind in death. Let us take the time this morning to remember, to honor, to share the story of those who served on our behalf. In the time we have together, let us tell one another stories of those whose life has made a difference. Some of the stories may be about people who have not died, but are serving or have served, just as I mentioned my dad, and now my grandfather, who served during World War II, but who also has given my life most of the grace notes it has had. He and my grandmother made so many things possible for me that would otherwise never have come to pass: telling me stories of his childhood, introducing me to extended family, sending me to camp, buying me braces. Let us take the time to speak lovingly of our dead or those who served.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ See also: Today's date in MMDDYY; first 6 digits of pi, $e$, $\sqrt2$ [more or less], and Avogadro's number; the diagonals $123456$ or $098765$; and a few other random assortments ($736032, 985693, 467840$) — all these give contextually relevant messages, but only the one our intrepid solvers identified is the correct answer. $\endgroup$
    – Rubio
    May 29, 2017 at 12:59

The text is encrypted with...

...a monoalphabetic cipher. If we google the original text, the first URL that pops up is 'http://uuroanoke.org/sermon/050529MemDay.htm'. The original plaintext can also be found there.

Now if we take the six digits displayed and take the words from those rows we get the message.

They fought so we live free.

  • $\begingroup$ Great job solving the back half of the puzzle! $\endgroup$
    – Rubio
    May 29, 2017 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Rubio Thanks! I like decrypting monoalphabetic substitutions, so that is where I started. I was a bit surprised that that was enough. $\endgroup$
    – Pjotr5
    May 29, 2017 at 12:55

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