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The Quiz

Cryptic Witticisms

by Michael Swaine

Generic image illustrating the article
  Solve the puzzles and win a prize.  

Below are seven witty or semi-witty quotations, each with its author indicated, and each having something to do with programming, computers, or programming life. They are encrypted with a simple letter-substitution cipher, a different cipher for each quote. Punctuation and numerals are not encrypted, and each of these cryptoquotes includes at least one numeral, which should help you in cracking the codes. Other clues to solving are single-letter words, double letters, letter frequency, and the formation of words, including the author names.

And guess what? This time, there’s a prize for solving!

Solve the first cryptoquote below, remove the space in the author’s name (like GenePitney or HeddaGabler), and it becomes your Pragmatic Bookshelf coupon code. Enter it during checkout at our site to secure a 25% site-wide discount on any purchase (excluding titles we do not publish, such as The Pragmatic Programmer and titles from our friends at SitePoint. Offer good for the first 250 responders; the coupon code expires 11/30/2009). Just a little extra motivation.

Here are the cryptoquotes:

  1. “Dgy mbsld 90% pm dgy ipfy tiipavdl mps dgy mbsld 90% pm dgy fyjyzpcnyvd dbny.  Dgy syntbvbvu 10% pm dgy ipfy tiipavdl mps dgy pdgys 90% pm dgy fyjyzpcnyvd dbny.” -Dpn Itsubzz

  2. “Msnibh tlltr wdhwkym mftlf tf 0 nl 1? Qr knqvlnqwmy ng 0.5 jtm lyeykfyh jwfsnif, W fsnixsf, vlnvyl kndmwhyltfwnd.” -Mftd Zybbr-Pnnfby

  3. “Kn xti pmxcsclkdi tpj ncddcvij xti wpsi jigidczsirx uoudi pw xti ucszmxih, p Hcddw-Hcoui vcmdj xcjpo ucwx $100, bix 1,000,000 skdiw zih bpddcr, prj iqzdcji crui p oiph, fkddkrb igihocri krwkji.” -Hclihx Q. Uhkrbido

  4. “Uswj rs rvcgi sz cr, rvjhj nhj nfhjnkx 1,000,000 wsgijxl sg 1,000,000 rxtjbhcrjhl, ngk Yljgjr cl gsrvcgp fcij Lvnijltjnhj.” -Mfnch Vsypvrsg

  5. “Ewn lsed’v lnzeyfg ljbcieny ejgk dji? Y2K2, dji uzjr aneeny ewfz ej eyive f veyfzhn ljbcieny!” -L3CJ

  6. “Uli zf tmfvmrwwnmc rburic wjx kt Lrbbfunng rgz Olmjcqwrc? Ynorkcn Foq 31 ndkrbc Zno 25.” -Rgfgiwfkc

  7. “1d x0s z4j n34e 7p15, x0s n34iix j33e 70 637 4 i1d3.” -Gjhjxlhst

OK, one more hint. Two of the quotes have the same author name. Since each quote has a different encryption, the author names won’t look identical, but they will have the same length and pattern.

Answer to Last Month’s Quiz

Last month we asked you to resolve some mother-child relationships. Here are our mother-and-child reunions:



1. Black, Estrada, Coronado, Collins, and Zappa

T. Invention

2. Grace Murray Hopper


3. Mary Lou Jepson

O. One Laptop Per Child


Q. Search engines

5. Ada Lovelace

N. Computer programming

6. Jean E. Sammet


7. Adele Goldberg

R. Smalltalk


K. Icon language

9. Fortune

P. Wendi Shasta Leonardo

10. Personal communicators

A. All markets, according to John Sculley

11. A computer

J. N. Katherine Hayles

12. A demo in 1968

F. DEMO Conference

13. Actress Angelina Jolie

I. Grendel

14. Actress Celeste Holme

E. Ted Nelson

15. Actress Hedy Lamarr

S. Spread-spectrum crypto

16. The ’60s

M. Steven Paul Jobs

17. Susan Kare

C. Chicago

18. HyperCard

B. WikiWiki

19. Time

D. Truth

20. Mobo


Here is the logic behind the non-obvious ones. Black, Estrada, Coronado, Collins, and Zappa were the original members of the band The Mothers of Invention. is a metasearch site, billed as “The Mother of all Search Engines.” Wendi Shasta Leonardo is the protagonist of Norman Spinrad’s novel Child of Fortune. Katherine Hayles wrote a book My Mother Was a Computer. Douglas Engelbart’s 1968 demonstration at the Fall Joint Computer Conference is always called “the mother of all demos.” Angelina Jolie played the mother of Grendel in the movie Beowulf. Ted Nelson’s mother was indeed Celeste Holme and his father was director Ralph Nelson. Actress Hedy Lamarr holds a patent on spread-spectrum crypto technology. Jobs? Well, if you did LSD, went to India, and became a Buddhist, surely you’re a child of the 60s. Susan Kare designed the Chicago font for the original Macintosh. WikiWiki is the child of HyperCard according to Ward Cunningham himself. “Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority,” according to Bertolt Brecht in his play Life of Galileo. The Daughter of Time is also a novel by Josephine Tey, but you need the Brecht connection to find out who that daughter is. Among the daughtercards of a motherboard (aka Mobo) is almost always a DIMM module.