How To Solve A Cryptogram: Some Helpful Hints

We’ve moved forward with launching our first game this past month, a cryptogram game where players compete to solve puzzles based on famous quotes. The game is played on an interactive screen where you are presented with the secret message and can guess what different letters may mean. Scoring is based on the amount of time you need to figure out the puzzle and the number of hints (free letters) the player asks for.

Naturally, after hitting the hint button a couple of times, many new players are curious about how to solve a cryptogram puzzle. Here are some helpful hints…

  • Focus on chipping away at the puzzle a couple of words at a time; once you’re confident about a particular letter in a word, use that to make some educated guesses about the rest of the word. Most solutions start slow, with a lot of time spent cracking 2-3 words in a phrase, and then accelerate very quickly, solving the balance of the puzzle in a minute or two.
  • Single letter words are frequently an easy starting point. If you see a single letter word in an English sentence, it is frequently either an A or an I.
  • Two letter words are another relatively easy opening point for the puzzle. There are a fairly small number of candidates (in general use) and since almost all of them include a vowel (which you may have from hints or other words), you’re frequently only guessing one letter of the word. Common two letter words include OF, OR, TO, IT, IS, AT, AS, IN, HE, BE, BY.
  • The universe of possibilities opens up quite a bit once you get into the three letter words. There are, however, some “usual suspects”. For the three letter words, the following words are relatively common in natural speech: AND, THE, ARE, FOR, HIS, HER, YOU, NOT, ARE.
  • Look for apostrophe’s! This signifies the presence of a contraction, which gives you a small universe of possible letters for the ending of that word – think about:  can’t, don’t, won’t, we’ll, we’re.
  • Double letters are another good pattern worth analyzing.
  • If you see a letter repeated multiple times in a larger word, especially if the repetition isn’t adjacent to each other, there is a good chance that it is a vowel.

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