See if you can extract the message encrypted in this text box:

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


It's time for some gentle hints:

  1. If you've studied the text box for a while, you've probably guessed that the text which needs to be decrypted is the top row, "IF YOU'RE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT..."

  2. If you've given some thought to the title, you've probably figured out that the "icebergs" are the vertical words.

  3. If the vertical words are icebergs, then you've probably surmised that the drawn line (second row) represents the waterline or sea level, with the tips of the icebergs above the waterline, and the submerged parts of the icebergs below the waterline.


Congratulations to @MOehm for solving it all in one swoop!

If you would like to know what the fourth hint would have been, here it is:

  1. The tips of the icebergs are above the waterline where we can see them, and the submerged parts of the icebergs are below the waterline where the sea creatures can see them.

In other words:

If the sea creatures can only see the submerged parts of the icebergs, and they understand that the icebergs must make complete words, then what might they guess the tips (i.e., the message) would read?

On the construction of the puzzle:

I wasn't concerned if the icebergs read up-to-down or down-to-up. People can read vertical words almost as well in either direction.

I was mainly concerned with finding pairs of words such as LAUGHTER/DAUGHTER in which the "submerged" part (–AUGHTER) is shared, thus creating a mapping between the "tips" ("L" to "D").

I also wanted the icebergs to be as unambiguous as possible, ideally with only two possibilities like LAUGHTER/DAUGHTER. Turns out, however, this is more difficult than you might think. There are some letter pairs for which there is no shared iceberg (see next paragraph). There are also letter pairs which do have shared icebergs, but those icebergs are also shared with many other words. So I just went down the line: first look for icebergs with two possible tips, then three possible tips, then four possible tips, etc. For those icebergs with multiple possibilities, the puzzle becomes a little bit like Sudoku — you have to pencil in all the possibilities and then pick the right one based on context.

There are also some pretty common letter combinations for which I could find no shared iceberg and thus no mapping. For example, it's difficult to find an iceberg pair that maps "I" to "J", or "I" to "V". In this particular puzzle, I could find no shared iceberg to convert "W" to "U" except for some really tough and uncommon ones (FEW/FEU and SOW/SOU) which I didn't think were fair, so I just cheekily wrote "ENCODING ERROR".

For letters which are the same in both the original message and in the encrypted message, and therefore don't change upon encryption, I looked for icebergs for which there is only one possibility. For example, there is only one tip which completes –NLY and that's "O". For another example, there is only one tip which completes –MPORTANT and that's "I".

  • $\begingroup$ I am assuming it is... but just to confirm, the <ENCODING ERROR> is on purpose? $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2019 at 13:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @KyleWilliamson — Yes, it's just meant to be a little bit of cheekiness for the solver because that part refused to be encoded by my method. $\endgroup$
    – SlowMagic
    Oct 28, 2019 at 14:00

1 Answer 1


I am happy and I know it. The message reads:

"Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

    — Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5

How is it encoded?

Each column can be read as an Englsh word, either from top to bottom or from bottom to top. The "tip" of each word can be replaced with another letter to form another word. For example OVER can be changed to EVER. The upside-down words have their ends replaced: CHILI can become CHILL, for example. Somethimes, the encoded words are upside down, but the plain ones aren't: FLED becomes DELI. Occasionally, the letters in the plain text and in the code are the same. In that case, no substitution is made.

The whole story:

    L :: ILIHC
    I :: FLED
    F :: YOLKS
    E :: OVER
    S :: UPEND

    B :: RELIEF
    U :: ENABLE
    T :: HYPE

    A :: ABOUT

    W :: PIPING
    A :: PROSE
    K :: ALUH
    I :: NAHT
    G :: YNIMOH

    S :: OWING
    H :: UAUL
    A :: KCED
    D :: NUMB
    O :: ONLY
    W :: WHICH


    P :: TENSION
    O :: CUTLETS
    O :: LEMAC
    R :: AIMLESS

    P :: PEOPLE
    L :: YAMSID
    A :: ODDS
    Y :: UTERUS
    E :: RRUP

    T :: AFOS
    T :: SURF

    S :: ITEMS
    T :: FREE
    R :: YOCED
    U :: ONION
    T :: USER
    S :: REASON

    A :: EFFECT
    N :: HAUGHTY
    D :: ALOHA

    F :: PLEA
    R :: PATIO
    E :: YCILOP
    T :: AFAR
    S :: NERVES

    H :: DONOR
    I :: YKS
    S :: OPINE

    H :: UAUL
    O :: KLIS
    U :: NEIL
    R :: OUSTED

    P :: IMAWS
    O :: TIDUA
    N :: CITRIC

    T :: LIGHTEN
    H :: ACNI
    E :: PLASTIC

    S :: YMRA
    T :: ORUE
    A :: UNITER
    G :: ROTTEN
    E :: HCIR

    A :: ALSO
    N :: NOTHING

    T :: SHRILL
    H :: ISAUQ
    E :: FRUS
    N :: YALP

    I :: ONWARD
    S :: UGAR

    H :: ROLLER
    E :: EVERY
    A :: HUNT
    R :: AURAL

    N :: PIECE
    O :: YGNAT

    M :: AURAL
    O :: NWES
    R :: DETAIL
    E :: YLPMIS

    I :: ONSET
    T :: UNITS

    I :: KCOL

    A :: OVERT

    T :: WHEN
    L :: TURKS

    T :: NEXT
    O :: DOZING
    L :: YARTSA
    D :: OUNCE

    B :: URINE
    Y :: REMOH

    A :: ELMS
    N :: AWAY

    I :: LLIHC
    I :: YKS
    O :: WILY
    T :: ARAIT

    F :: NORMAL
    U :: TAEB
    L :: TACTIC
    L :: OILY

    O :: SGOL
    F :: HENCE

    S :: OLLEC
    O :: WAKEN
    U :: INBORN
    N :: TETHER
    D :: IRONING

    A :: FLOE
    N :: YWOHS
    D :: OLOS

    F :: UFO
    U :: RAEB
    R :: EIGHT
    Y :: HELPED

    S :: AERIAL
    I :: POTA
    G :: PREY
    N :: YEARLY
    I :: AMPLY
    F :: NIFTY
    Y :: DENOH
    I :: YKS
    N :: ORAT
    G :: UNISON

    N :: KIBBLE
    O :: NUTS
    T :: OXEN
    H :: WEALTH
    N :: TESTER
    G :: CLASS

  • $\begingroup$ Excellent! And you solved it with only the most gentle of hints (which weren't even really hints, just observations about the structure of the puzzle). Curious: What was the crucial insight or inspiration that started you down the path toward the solution? $\endgroup$
    – SlowMagic
    Oct 29, 2019 at 0:30
  • $\begingroup$ FYI, your whole story has STRAYS instead of STRUTS. $\endgroup$
    – SlowMagic
    Oct 29, 2019 at 0:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks! I was intrigued by this puzzle -- I'm a sucker for pretty fixed-width text layouts -- and I had a go at it on Sunday, but with the wrong approach: I thought that the tips and the bottoms were important, maybe the word lengths and the direction of the words, and that they formed part of a simple Vigenère-like cipher. And I thought real words were just chosen to make the code look nice. The hints didn't really tell me anything new. $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Oct 29, 2019 at 6:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't know what the crucial insight was, but chili can be turned into child, chill and Chile easily, so I tried that and it looked promising. I got "but a walk(ing)" immediately, but I need to brush up on my Shakespeare -- I didn't see the full quote until very late. I also thought that the phrase would be in first person and had "I shared no more" (never mind that "eural" isn't a word) and wanted the "full" to be an adjective or adverb ending in "-ful(ly)". $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Oct 29, 2019 at 6:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I tried feeding excepts of what I had to Google, but the were slightly off, so nothing uselful came up until I got "Life's", after which everything fell in place. The "whole story" is the final stage of my working out the puzzle in a text editor, where I added and removed possible letters on the left hand side. $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Oct 29, 2019 at 6:29

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