So what is a cryptex anyways?  Well it’s a made up word from Dan Brown (187 Men to Avoid: A Guide for the Romantically Frustrated Woman, The Bald Book) that is a combination of cryptology and codex.  It’s basically a plot device where characters are forced along certain routes and interact with supporting characters while an appeal to the audience suspension of disbelief is made.

Mechanically, a cryptex is a series of rings with the letters/symbols on them and it’s basically a lock to get inside the tube.

In fact, it might be easier to think of it as what you’d get if a Jefferson wheel cipher had a baby with a bike lock.

As per a recent Sanborn transcript I read, it seemed as though he was suggesting that the Copperplate acts in a similar fashion.

Some practical questions arise.

  1. Is it all of the copperplate or just the ciphertext side?
  2. Is this Sanborn disinformation?
  3. Do we use the CT (uneven rows) or the PT (fit to even rows)?
  4. How were we supposed to know to attempt this?
  5. Since each ring will have a full alphabet plus random letters or text rotating around, what exactly are we looking for anyways?
  6. Can we do this easily?
  7. Do we make horizontal rings (using the rows as they are) or do we flip it on its side (using the columns as the rings)?
  8. If using PT, do we need a translated K4 to make it work or is this involved in solving the fourth part?

I started making one but it just sort of seemed pointless.  I can give you some tips if you want to assemble your own.  I’ve got the copperplate gridded out so you can print it out.  You’ll need to either attach the CT or PT to the Vigenere tableau.  I chose to cut each row off one at a time and tape each end of the two pieces together.  In this way you’ll get 28 rings which you can then fit around something big enough to hold them.  I’d recommend a paper towel roll (with some paper towel on so it holds the rings up but gives a little).  I tried a bottle at my work and it worked sort of.  Now you can start spinning those rings and hoping that something will show up.  Keep in mind that the mispellings may be aligned in some significant way.  Also remember that you can line up KRYPTOS in the untranslated K4 section when it’s assembled in rings.

I don’t have a very good feeling about this.  The biggest problem I run into is that there are 33 complete A-Z alphabets in the Vigenere Tableau which basically means you can spell literally almost anything you want, at least up to 28 letters.  This is an introduction of too much variability.  At the same time, having large sections of the alphabet at play means we start running into constraints on making longer messages than 28 letters which I would assume we would need to do to end up with a final message.

If you haven’t already read them, I’ve got pages tackling this very problem in various aspects from the Morse Code text to K4.  It is very difficult to blend multiple messages into the same text simply with transposition.  Recovering the variant messages is infinitely more challenging.

Also, in the abominable DaVinci Code, the cryptex is a sophisticated lock hiding a lock which hides a secret.  I don’t have to tell you but Kryptos is not a container hiding anything.  I’ve worked the idea over enough to think that it is perhaps not exactly what we are after.  What we are indeed after is likely very similar in many ways though.

Does Kryptos move?

There probably is  some method that involves changing the orientation but I don’t think we have enough to work with yet.