My friend Al and I constantly bicker. One time, he proudly boasted that he can crack any cipher ever written, so I put out a little wager: if I can stump him with any cipher I write, he would have to give me $100 USD. He laughed it off, and we continued the rest of the day in silence, but ever the penny-pincher I sought to build a very complex cipher, one that I knew for sure he could not solve.

After countless hours and several hair-pulling minutes, I built a clever, little cipher, encoded a rather poignant message, and wrote it on a note that I would hand-deliver. But I had a problem:

My friend commutes daily by train and arrives at the station at 4:25 PM. He's typically late, often by half-an-hour --- though it takes a minute or two for him to get out of the turnstiles. When he does get out, he realized he forgot his bag inside the station, quickly ran back in to get it, and walked back out. However, I factored this all into account, delivering the note promptly with a smug look on my face when he returned.

It read, in full:

01:20 05:20 06:45 11:20 09:35 04:35 03:10 05:20
06:20 07:55 02:55 01:50 01:50 06:25 08:55
03:35 12:30 05:45 06:15 11:15 12:55
12:50 07:25 12:35 09:00 09:05
10:55 12:50 12:45 05:55
04:45 12:00 10:25

Who dare uttered these words? ~Z

Sadly, to my dismay, he took one glance at my note and crumpled it up, saying he had no time for "childish things".

Oh well, I tried... Can you at least answer my cipher?

To clarify, your response should be a distinct name --- a person, if you will. I will give preference to any answer that explains why this name is the desired response.


My friend loves his molasses, but I keep warning it'll kill him one day; after all, both he and this person are from 11:40 3:35 10:40 (so history isn't exactly on his side). Oh dear, look at the time; I'll be late for my 9:00!

Oh, I'm such a daffer! I forgot to mention I wrote down a "cheat-sheet" in case I forgot how to decipher the note... probably because it was written on the back of the very same note my friend threw away. Now, despite this misfortune, I've recently managed to recall bits-and-pieces; it went something like this:

01 45 05 02 25 08 05 15 15 07 55 55
Eh... not sure this helps much; can you make any sense from this chicken-scratch?

Perhaps it would be best to look 2:05 4:25 6:20 8:10 5:55 7:55; Cameo would be proud... either that or High Noon.


1 Answer 1


Work in progress...but this is what I tried so far

01:E R:E 06:45 B:E 09:T A:T S:N R:E
06:E 07:55 02:55 01:50 01:50 06:L 08:55
S:T 12:30 R:45 06:15 B:15 12:55
12:50 07:L 12:T 09:00 09:R
N:55 12:50 12:45 R:55
A:45 12:00 N:L

How I derived the initial words based on the Hint

"Boston" is the keyword, based on the Great Molasses Flood.

Breaking it down we get:

Letter | Number | Frequency in message
B | 11 | 2
O | 40 | 0
N | 10 | 3
S | 03 | 2
T | 35 | 4

Attempted Changes:

E = 20
A = 04
R = 05
L = 25

  • $\begingroup$ You obviously understand the basis of my first hint, but I believe you are not using all (or enough) of it to help you see my cipher at work; namely, if you are using ROT13(ahzore serdhrapvrf) as a starting point to help solve my cipher, something should appear strange in your breakdown since you noticed there is indeed a repeat but it does not seem to align with the keyword at all. Also, I'm curious to know where the ROT13("RNEY") attempt came from, as it seems like a random decision to me (at least, at first glance)... I certainly applaud the effort, but sadly nothing matches so far. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 6:55
  • $\begingroup$ @OmicronZed For ROT13("RNEY"), I analyzed the frequency of numbers and was using the frequency of letters in English words to test it out. T and O were used already. $\endgroup$
    – Adib
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 18:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Oh, okay... I figured that explained the choices for ROT13("R") and ROT13("N"); just was confused as to why you used ROT13("E") and ROT13("Y"), and not more common choices like ROT13("V") or ROT13("H") (unless you were trying to match the frequencies to their closest absolute value found in my note, or I'm just using an outdated frequency chart). Still, frequencies may not get you very far in this cipher due to the ROT13(ubzbcubavp) behavior I alluded to. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 19:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I was experimenting honestly - I was thinking of ROT13(V) and ROT13(H), but I couldn't get words to pop out. I went even as far is drawing a clock face with letters on it, but it made me even more confused. I'll try again after my meetings. Thank you for the great puzzle! $\endgroup$
    – Adib
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 20:17

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