Sebastian's Puzzles

In 1968 Dirk Bogarde starred in a British film called Sebastian, a stylish story about a code-breaking civil-servant struggling with the early post-war computers and the transposition-based ciphers which dominated the cold war.

When I first saw the movie I was a boy of 16 who was already fascinated by both computers and codes, I hoped that a job just like his would be my future career, but sadly my lifetime in IT never offered anything quite so glamorous. Whilst he occupied himself with coded notes between criminals trying to arrange nefarious plans, the modern cryptographer works entirely on encoding numbers, and the encoding of messages is usually dependent on large prime numbers and complicated error-free computer-processes which are not susceptible to the creativity of the human mind.

In these puzzles I hark back to the simpler times when a single inspired insight might be sufficient to break through the code; when the analysis and recognition of the most diverse patterns and characteristics might provide enough of a clue to decoding.

During this week of original puzzles you will sometimes require specialist or general knowledge, whilst for other puzzles a simple numerical or letter pattern is used to disguise the secret message. Click on Monday to start your mission!

In designing them I have tried to fulfil the following requirements of a good puzzle.

  • If (specialist) information is required then it is of the type which can be found in a library or via the internet, and where a very specific question can be asked to locate the information.

  • There are no transpositional ciphers here and no complicated mathematics. The solution is often to be found through pattern recognition, logic, and perhaps through contextual analysis.

  • When a strategy has been conceived by the solver, it should be directly apparent if (part of) the solution has been found. There are never more than two steps required for the complete solution.

  • When the puzzle is complete it should be apparent that it is complete and correct.

  • I have not come across any similarly constructed puzzle on my adventures, so they are (at least in that sense) original inspirations for each ofthe puzzles.

    I hope you enjoy puzzling, and feel free to ask questions or send me your solution for confirmation.