The following strange headlines appeared in the newspaper but in reality, they are a Baconian encoded message where some letters encode as one character and the others as another in a pattern. You know that the message starts out as INORD. What does the message decode to?

Power laser wisps apple press.
Peter never wears quilt sleep trend.
Debut renew force field.
Prime prism below clear wands apply xrays where roger drove seven wimpy weeds.
Never lower fluid fruit, allow large block.
Break wrong drill, delay level added early fiber weave.
Seven sweet worms spent newly clear fleet, drove royal apple, leave alert, weird whale speak

I couldn't find any resources online on this kind of problem. Can anyone find a procedure to solve questions like this?

The answer is here -https://toebes.com/codebusters/Samples/Code%20Busters%202018%20Test%203%20Answers.pdf


2 Answers 2


Some facts-

  • A Baconian cipher has each letter encoded to a string of A's and B's of length 5
  • You know the first 5 letters are INORD
  • You can see that each word in the headline has 5 letters, thus can infer that each word relates to 1 letter

Power is I which is ABAAA in Baconian
from this we relate that P,W,E and R is A while O is B

Doing the same relation for the words we know we have the following -

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 
B ? ? ? A ? ? ? B X ? A ? ? B A ? A B ? ? ? A ? ? X

we don't care what J or Z translate to since they don't occur in the words we have.

Looking at the next word - peter -> AA?AA we know its either an 'A' or an 'E'
Looking at the next one - never -> ?A?AA we know it will be 'A', 'E', 'R' or 'W'


From these we can see that IN ORDER forms a proper set of words and allows us to fill up the values of t, n and v. using this method we can slowly decipher the message. If the final message has some errors we made an erroneous judgment and would need to look at our work again. (in this example, given the work done it is quite possible that INORDEA actually expanded to 'IN ORDEALS ....' which is still proper English and has to be accounted for)


I'm assuming you know the basics of how a Baconian cipher works. Some letters are a A, some letters are a B. To keep track of this, I have two lists, A and B.

Given that the first set of five characters, POWER, leads to I, we know that I = ABAAA thus the first, third, fourth and fifth letters are A letters, while the second is a B. We insert this into the list. A: EPRW; B: O Next, we will continue this with the other four letters that we know. The A/B lists soon look like this. A: ELPRW; B: AIOS

Note that if the first character of a five-character string is a B, the next must be an A, as there aren't enough letters in the alphabet for a BB???. Using the word ADDED on the second-last line, we can determine D must be an A letter. After that, it's mostly trial and error to work out other pieces of the plaintext. However, the most important thing is to find the A/B letters, which exponentially allows you to determine other pieces.

For example, the next letter after INORD is likely a vowel. We know AA?AA for the word PETER, which can only be an A or an E. Keep at this, it you can make short work of it.


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