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This is a repost from my puzzle blog. (Link in my profile.)

The Collection Cipher

My great uncle from Atlanta died last month, and my family drove there to attend the funeral and prepare his house for an estate sale.

When I was cleaning his office, I found a strange note. I’ve stared at it for hours, and I just can’t figure out what it means. Maybe you can help. I am attaching a copy at actual size.

The note wasn’t the only strange thing in his office. Every square inch was filled with Coca Cola memorabilia — posters, newspaper ads, toys, and unopened bottles. By far his largest collection was of 12 oz. Coke cans from different eras. There must have been hundreds! And apparently when he wrote the note, he was thirsty. On the desk beside the note was an empty Coke can, the only empty can in the room.

Other than the Coke memorabilia, the room looked like a typical office. On his desk were pencils, a spiral notebook, a cloth tape measure, Scotch tape, and a pair of scissors, though I doubt most of this has anything to do with the note.

Maybe it’s all just gibberish, or maybe there’s more than meets the eye. Can you help me solve the mystery?

Hint:

I get the sense that the first step is printing out a physical copy of the note at actual size. I added the "1 inch" marker, so you can be sure it is scaled correctly when printed. That is the marker's sole purpose.

Hint 2:

See the white squares at the bottom? I get the sense that you use these to fill in a 5-letter keyword, which serves as a way to reorder something. There are some numbers in the image, and I feel like these, in conjunction with the Coke clues, may help you find that keyword.

Notes on sizing:

For those without access to a 12 oz. U.S. soda can, its diameter is 65.75mm or 2.588 inches. For the 1 inch scale, 1 inch equals 25.4 mm.

enter image description here

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  • 5
    $\begingroup$ "Please consider the environment before printing out this puzzle." $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Oct 8 '17 at 20:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well, it's only one 8.5" x 11" page. You could take an already-used sheet and print on the back of it. $\endgroup$ – Tony Youngblood Oct 8 '17 at 23:46
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    $\begingroup$ @TonyYoungblood i don't think MOehm was being serious :) $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Oct 9 '17 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ "I am the Oehm-ax, I speak for the trees" $\endgroup$ – Rubio Oct 10 '17 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ Seems like a scytale to me. Wrap it around the coke can and a message should appear. Can't be bothered to print it out and do it myself though I'm a little busy $\endgroup$ – Quadraxus Oct 11 '17 at 18:40
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The first clue is the obsession with Coca-Cola. The only

numbers in the note are 188658. Or, 1886-5-8 - May 8th, 1886. This is the date Coca-Cola was first sold.

With some investigation, we find this

happened at Jacob's pharmacy. Putting the name Jacob at the bottom in the blank squares, and then ordering by alphabetical order, tells us that column 2 comes first, then 5, 3, 1 and 4. This is consistent with the numbers in column 4 being tacked on at the end of the message.

If you print the message out,

cut into columns, arrange in this order, and then wrap around the Coke can (found on the desk next to the message) you find that every 17th letter (remember to start counting from 1, 18, 35, ...) is displayed vertically.

Here's what it looks like wrapped around a can.

Read them in this manner and ignore the numerals to find out the message says:

THENEWANDPOPULARSODAFOUNTAINDRINKCONTAININGTHEPROPERTIESOFTHEWONDERFULCOCAPLANTANDTHEFAMOUSCOLANUTS

That is:

The new and popular soda fountain drink containing the properties of the wonderful coca plant and the famous cola nuts

Which is:

A line from an early Coca Cola advertisement, back when it contained cocaine.

Picture

The items on the desk...

...are clues. You need a pencil to write the codeword, scissors to cut the note into strips, and Scotch tape to tape them together. “Spiral notebook” hinted that you had to make a spiral, and “cloth tape measure” hinted that you needed to wrap something around something else.

Schematic summary:


  j: LDMOTEOSUDOIPTTDCATOL         a: TAUDTITGOEERCTEUA HNLA         TAUDTITGOEERCTEUA
  a: TAUDTITGOEERCTEUAHNLA         b: ANATPSWFAAFSN EDAFIKIH         HNLAANATPSWFAAFSN
  c: EOOUPNACUNPRONCNERFNL  --->   c: EOOUPNACU NPRONCNERFNL  --->   EDAFIKIHEOOUPNACU
  o: SWPONRNNRIHEONH188658         j: LDMOT EOSUDOIPTTDCATOL         NPRONCNERFNLLDMOT
  b: ANATPSWFAAFSNEDAFIKIH         o: S WPONRNNRIHEONH188 658        EOSUDOIPTTDCATOLS
                                                                     WPONRNNRIHEONH188
                                                                     658
                                                                              |
   .--------------------------------------------------------------------------'
   |
   V

     |\   |\   |\   |\   |\   |\   |\   |\   |\   |\   |\   |\   |\   |\   |\   |\
     | \  | \  | \  | \  | \  | \  | \  | \  | \  | \  | \  | \  | \  | \  | \  | \
   T |  A |  u |  d |  t |  i |  t |  g |  o |  e |  e |  r |  c |  t |  e |  u |  a
   h |  n |  l |  a |  a |  n |  a |  T |  p |  s |  W |  f |  a |  A |  F |  s |  N
   e |  d |  a |  F |  i |  k |  i |  h |  e |  O |  o |  u |  P |  n |  a |  C |  u
   N |  P |  r |  o |  n |  C |  n |  e |  r |  f |  n |  l |  l |  d |  m |  o |  t
   e |  o |  S |  u |  D |  o |  i |  P |  t |  T |  d |  C |  a |  T |  o |  l |  s
   w |  p |  o |  n |  r |  n |  n |  r |  i |  h |  e |  o |  n |  h |   \|   \|
    \|   \|   \|   \|   \|   \|   \|   \|   \|   \|   \|   \|   \|   \|
 

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  • $\begingroup$ Excellent work! You got everything right! The solution is a quote from an early Coca Cola ad. I'll post a picture above. $\endgroup$ – Tony Youngblood Oct 22 '17 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ Eedrah, you are now in second place on the CodeAWeek leaderboard! $\endgroup$ – Tony Youngblood Oct 22 '17 at 2:20
  • $\begingroup$ Awesome! (I should have waited for a few more days ;) ) Is there a way to quickly view all of your unanswered questions? Are they all posted here on PSX, or are some kept only on your blog? $\endgroup$ – eedrah Oct 22 '17 at 6:38
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. There are 3 unsolved puzzles, and you can view them all here. I have not posted these three on PSX yet. $\endgroup$ – Tony Youngblood Oct 22 '17 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, I just cross-posted Challenge 10 on PSX. I suspect it will be solved fairly quickly. $\endgroup$ – Tony Youngblood Oct 22 '17 at 18:26

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