View Full Version : Solving Tips

01-14-2012, 09:38 PM
Do you have an interesting solving tip you'd be willing to share for folks new to the site? I have two -

Check your Recent Games every so often in case you somehow missed a puzzle :confused: (if you care about getting 100% right).

You can hit the Enter key to have a puzzle checked, but don't hit it and then wander off to get a cup of coffee, or you may come back in 10 minutes and realize you've got one letter wrong and now you can get (yippee :( ) the new longest time (if you care about how fast you solve).

Anyone else?

01-14-2012, 10:39 PM
Check out "Help for newcomers" in the forum, currently on page 7.

01-14-2012, 11:33 PM
I find that I delete letters if I am pretty sure they are wrong, which is often. I have a programmable mouse and have programmed one of the buttons to "Delete". Saves having to move my hand from mouse to keyboard and back. Time is not my goal.

01-18-2012, 01:29 AM
I always start by looking for letter occurances that fit certain patterns like a three letter word with a pattern like 5-2-7. This often leads to 'the'. Also 4 letter word that starts and ends with the same letter is usually 'that' or possibly ''else' or 'dead'. I also try the endings of longer words like 'ing' or 'ion. Also in many quotes words like 'never' or 'people' show up.
I am not a speed solver but do like a high solving percentage.

01-25-2012, 10:11 PM
Y O S Y = About 95% of the time it will be T H A T in other words a four letter word that starts and ends with the same letter is probably T H A T. I also use a lot of author's quotes when I am really stuck. Your solving time might go very high so you don't want to use them unless you are stuck and are more worried about your solving percentage.

01-27-2012, 07:48 AM
I also like "there are" and "there is". And "it is" is common too. What I hate are proper names. Damn you, Jerry Cole and your sports quotes!

01-27-2012, 07:47 PM
Just to echo and maybe complement the last three posts... whenever I start, I begin by examining the three and four letter words. If I see, as locodad points out, a sequence like Y-O-S-Y, I then immediately look at the three letter words, searching specifically for one that begins with "Y-O", so if it is Y-O-J, then it is nearly a 100% certainty that you are looking at the words "THAT" and "THE." I also check six letter words looking for a sequence like N-A-C-N-Z-A. If the "N" has a low frequency of usage in the quote, while the "A" has a high frequency of usage, you're probably looking at the word "PEOPLE," as quotes are usually in very generalized terms and because the "E" is probably the most used letter in the alphabet. I love the words "THERE" and "WHERE"... again, if the first letter has a high frequency of usage I'll plug in the "T", whereas if it is a low frequency of usage, it is probably the "W." When I find the "I", I then check out the long words and look for endings that might wind up with an "ING" or "TION", as Fishbum pointed out. "NOTHING" is good word to look for if you're stumped, as is "SOMETHING" and "SOMETIMES." "WHICH" "TRUTH" are good ones. And sometimes when you think you're looking at "PEOPLE" but the "E's" don't fit, you might be actually looking at "ALWAYS".

I would love to hear from Bansai and Pootie on this subject. Pootie, is it a myth or is it a fact that you have a 100% solve rate? You must be able to offer something the rest of us don't know. And Bansai has lightning fast solve times. Again, what might you add to this discussion?

01-27-2012, 09:09 PM
Its a myth. Just go to the High Scores Page and click on the All time ranking list.

Im at 98.3 percent. I believe there are a few currently on the all time like Laura
and LLL who are at a hundred percent. That is an amazing feat

I do try to play now for a hundred percent. When I first started I didnt even know that
was an option and frankly for new players its a hard road.
I recommend just playing to get used to the game and not worry about solving each one.
When you feel you are ready to tackle the hundred percent you will know.
And to re iterate to new players wanting to come and be really fast right away...
Its just not going to happen. It takes time and patience and lots and lots of puzzles
under your belt before you notice speed improvement.
I started at about a 150 seconds avg now Im at a little over thirty one seconds.
That was three years of playing alot. And boy, LOL, I used to play A LOT.
The game is fun. We must try and remember that we are competing but to enjoy and
relax and chat a bit in the chatbox and imho, always come to the aid of a fellow player
who will ask for help. I ve been stuck more times than I can count and players have taken
hours out of their playing time to help me solve. Thats a perk of this site.
All of the suggestions here are the same tools I use to solve.
And my suggestion that I can offer is never give up!! All the puzzles can be solved.
If you hit enter or check it and there's an error you have typed something wrong.
Look for the would/could...there is a very large post in this forum entitled "Coulda Woulda" http://www.cryptograms.org/forum/showthread.php?t=228
Its fun to read. Just dont give up and ask for help, go to the chatbox, you will get a response.
Its faster than posting here.
**One last tip: Keep a list of those quotes that you find hardest to solve. If you get the
quote again and keep your list in some kind of order it will help alot


01-27-2012, 09:41 PM
And it pays to pay attention to the people being quoted. Some of the ancients or biblical ones use THEE, THY and THOU, and get to know the sports people who use proper names.
Political guys use LIBERTY, GOVERNMENT and CONSERVATIVE. And I hate the word LAW - I never think of it! It's always a blessing when it just gets filled in because of other words.

My other little words to look for are "is a" and "no one".

01-27-2012, 09:42 PM
Oops, sorry about repeating about the sports quotes. You can tell they really drive me crazy.

01-27-2012, 10:47 PM
For those who could have sworn they typed everything correctly, yet keep coming up with the "you're wrong" page:

Some of these quotes have British spellings (colour, humour). One quote has the word "busyness" in it.

Other times, two words with similar spellings can work in context (could/would; size/side).

Not all two-letter words are real words. "TV", "Mr", and such are in here.

The best way to figure out these is to reset the puzzle, type slowly, and watch the remaining letters line at the bottom. At some point, you're bound to discover the letter you duplicated and fix the problem. Or, if you can decide which is the problem word, just keep trying all the remaining letters until you get it right.

01-28-2012, 06:41 AM
What a lot of good tips....wish I had thought to start this conversation when I first started!

Another tip: longer words ending in a letter followed by 2 letters that are the same (IE ....
ogg, eff, ncc, wpp,etc) are frequently words ending with "ESS" or "ALL"

If the ending is ESS, it is almost always preceded by an "N", but sometimes by an "L".......as in worthless

Hope this helps a bit

PS don't let Pootie fool you....she's an AMAZING solver and the first one to try to help with questions!

01-29-2012, 02:24 AM
I'm not sure if anyone else has mentioned this, but I always keep a window minimized in the task bar, already set to whatever search engine I prefer. If you solve PART of a quote, you can often do a "search" for the rest. Works well if you also add the author or even "hungarian proverb" to the search

for example:
"all men look behind.........."quote by george lucas <enter> or if you only have the end of the quote:
"....... the last days of summer" quote by george lucas

Also, there are many sites you can search for quotes by people, if you have no clue where to begin.IE.....type in.....quotes by george lucas <enter> will give you a list of those sites. Some are easier and quicker than others. Brainyquote is always in alphabetical order so if you have the first few words it's easier.

01-29-2012, 08:41 AM
The subject of this thread is "solving" tips. Googling up the quote is not "solving".

01-30-2012, 12:35 AM
Oh! and as the end of the month draws near - don't be mid puzzle when the clock runs out! I ruined a perfect 100% last month by not finishing while the clock turned over. How very disappointing. That is, if you care about percentages. :-(

01-30-2012, 04:45 AM
Excellent point, afulton! I usually give myself 15 minutes to solve the last puzzle of the month. Others give it a few hours, just to make sure nothing unexpected comes up.

Wait a minute after the last puzzle, check your stats, then log out until the new month starts. You can still chat and play, but it won't hurt your scores.

01-30-2012, 06:21 AM
I see these puzzles being solved in 10 or 11 seconds I get most of them on my own within 100 seconds which I think is pretty amazing timing is there a way to turn off the timer or is it automatic I mean come on 10 secs I cant even type that fast lol

01-30-2012, 08:15 AM
You can play non competitively and the time or points wont count.

If you want to play competitively then the timer is auto and with practice
your time will get better.

The more ya play the faster you will get. If speed is your goal.
There are points and accuracy competitions as well.

Have fun and welcome to the site!

01-30-2012, 05:50 PM
Humph, when I started, I couldn't believe the times either. And that was with everyone in the chat saying I was fast for a newbie. I now have one 6-second record and one 5-second. (Partied quietly to myself for days on that one. :) ) Eventually, you do pick up speed.

More important, it's fun to solve these! They're great for your critical thinking, language skills, and TYPING ability. Thanks to Admin adding the bios, you learn about new authors, political thinkers, and cultures. And you meet interesting people in the chat box and forum.

If the competitions did not exist, I probably wouldn't play every single day, but I would definitely play a lot. Do these puzzles because you enjoy them, and go easy on yourself for the first six months or so.

01-30-2012, 09:10 PM
True to that the reason for doing these puzzles is for shear enjoyment which is what I do receive from doing them. I have loved solving these puzzles since I was a young child, I am just blown away since I always believed that I ruled supreme at solving them fast, I had no competition never even met anyone in person who knew what a cryptogram is. LOL anyhow yes I do enjoy them and yes will keep playing and yes I will rule the cryptogram world so watch out yall here I come keep look out for Humphtriptz thanks for replies Luv ya's

01-30-2012, 10:13 PM
Lol. We await your storm to the top of the leader boards. Good luck!

01-31-2012, 05:45 PM
Thanks for all the support I truly appreciate any advice. I am just so thrilled to finally find other crypto freaks such as myself. See you on the podiums lol

01-31-2012, 08:38 PM
Earlier, I had asked Pootie (and Bansai) to chime in, and haven't had an opportunity to say thanks to Pootie for responding until now. I did check the top 100, and was amazed at the point totals I was seeing. I have a long way to go if I am to ever crack the top 100. My solve rate is currently a humble 78.1%, although the past few months I have been a little over 80%, which is slowly bringing my total solve rate up. And, I began watching where I was ranked at some point when I was somewhere in the 800's. I believe I'm currently ranked 483rd. So I've cracked the top 500. It is a fun site, and it seems to be filled with generally positive, kindhearted, and helpful people. Thanks again, Pootie... and to all the others here who have added their tips for solving.

01-31-2012, 09:46 PM
i would like to add that the first word is often followed with the term "is the " or "is not" . I would also have to agree that the more you play , the faster you will get. I am not fast compared to most of these folks, but I notice my solve times getting faster each month. what gets me is when I solve a difficult puzzle , with an average solve time of say, 150 seconds, in 27 or 28 seconds, and then discover that bansai solved it in 7 seconds!!! I think to level the playing field , as far as solving times go, bansai should have to play blindfolded:D

02-01-2012, 01:12 AM

mikehall, I promise I'm not looking at the keyboard when I type. Somehow, everyone still thinks I still have an unfair advantage. I just can't figure it out(???)

(aerial view of same image)

02-01-2012, 02:31 AM
you actually bring up a good tip for faster solving times, knowing how to type. I don't know how to type, and having to look at the keyboard as well as the screen is definitely a disadvantage. regardless, your solve times are pnenomenal.

02-06-2012, 09:43 PM
Another tip to look for since many of these quotes are from
ages past...
If you see a ' before a three letter word its usually 'tis.

03-25-2012, 09:54 AM
If I suspect I have "the," I look through the puzzle for the "th" combination, since it's the most common 2-letter sequence in the language. If I find some, I am more sure I have it right.

A 4 letter word with the middle two letters the same usu. means that the middle letters are "e" or "o". I have never run across a word like this where that's not the case. If calling it 'e' gives you something like a two-letter gibberish word that starts with "e," for example, then you can be sure it's "o."

03-25-2012, 06:57 PM
I am not sure how helpful this really is, but if you have more than one 1 letter word on the board, 9 times out of 10 the one with the largest number under it is "a" and the one with the lowest number under it is "i".

03-25-2012, 07:45 PM
If you have 2 one letter words, it is probably also true that the first one is 'I" acting as the subject of the sentence. It would be difficult to start with "a" and then somehow follow it up with "i." "I think horses are a beautiful animal" hard to see it starting with the "a." I don't think this has evre failed me.

03-27-2012, 08:51 AM
I also think punctuation is a great help. For example, if you come across a solitary comma, you expect the comma to be followed by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, nor, yet). If you have several commas, then you probably have a list of things, and you would look for your "and" before the last thing in the list. Semi-colons usually signal the start of a new sentence, so you will have a new subject-verb set. If you have a question, you can guess that the second letter of the first word is "h" (works for why, when, what, where). Sometimes this doesn't work, like if you have a sentence that goes like this: "if...., why...? But it can give you a clue if you are stuck. Some of the hardest puzzles for me are the ones with no punctuation to guide and help.

I believe most puzzlels (except for the super hard ones) have an "in:" a way to get into the puzzle. I take my time and scan the puzzle, looking for my "in." This means that I have a good solving percentage (98.7% on about 2300 online puzzles), but my times suck. I just will never be fast. But, since I have returned to online solving, i find that i am a bit faster than I was before--I'll just have to be happy with that.

Apostrophes are also a help. They either signal contractions that end in "n't" or possessives that end in apostrophe "s." If you have 2 letters after the apostrophe that are not the same, then you have a contraction and the second letter after the apostrophe HAS TO BE 'e." You've, You're, They've, They're. If the two letters after the apostrophe are the same, then they MUST BE "Ls" "You'll, they'll, we'll.
The longest contracted word ending in "n't" is shouldn't, so if you have more letters than that, you know that it is a "s" after the apotsrophe. I know people know about contractions,so I am kinda preaching to the choir, but often contractions are my "in" to the puzzle.

i love, love, love cryptograms and I am glad to be back online! (I didn't have my own computer til now, so I had to use school computer labs, which did not allow games). I kept playing, but it was pencil and paper.

Happy "deciphering," everyone!

03-27-2012, 04:50 PM
Kimmie, your hints do in fact work for the vast majority of puzzles, and are excellent places to start. I'm just going to give a few exceptions to the rules.

Double letters: There are a couple of puzzles with the words "ally" and "odds", which really mess up the double-letter rule. Also, there is one puzzle with the word "ooze". It's the only word I have found that starts with a double letter.

If you see an Alexander Pope quote with an apostrophe, and you're stuck, try D for the apostrophe'd letter. I hate Pope quotes. Or, it can end in 't, but it's not a word we're used to, like "dip't", where the 't takes the place of ed.

There are a couple of quotes out there where the two apostrophed letters are 'st or 'th. They hurt.

Then there's the a'borrowing quote: "He who goes a'borrowing often goes a'sorrowing." I may have a word or two wrong. Pootie or Lily? First few times I got that, I thought it was in French. Nope, just really hard.

03-27-2012, 06:29 PM
also beware of o'clock...and the dreaded whoso....Whoso...it starts the quote.

and yes there are two variations of the a'borrowing quote out there. One has an apostrophe
the other doesn't.

Welcome back Kimmie, pleasant solving.

03-27-2012, 07:49 PM
Thanks, guys!

I think my unfamiliarity with the exceptions you point out is due to the fact that most of the cryptograms I have solved in my life were paper and pencil, put out by Penny Press. They would never give stuff like difficult quotes from Alaexander Pope. Thier puzzles are pretty predictable. I don't think I am ever going beck to pencil and paper puzzles--unless I have no way to solve cryptograms onine (like if I am waiting in the lobby for a Dr. appt, and did not want to bring my computer along).

And it has only been since Dec 2009 that I have been able to do cryptograms without help. So I only have like 28 months of experience. Knowing exceptions to general 'rules', such as what you guys give, separates excellent solvers from the good.

Thanks again,

03-28-2012, 12:12 AM
Hi Kimmie; I too look for the 'in' you describe but sometimes there just doesn't seem to one. No double letters, no single letters, no apostrophes, no 'it is', etc. So it usually takes me quit while and a lot tries to break in. Some times puzzles like this are marked 'easy'. Not for me. I can some times solve a 'difficult' 'gram quickly (at least for me). I have no clue as to how the ratings are arrived at.

03-28-2012, 02:28 AM
I know how you feel! There have been puzzles marked "easy" or "average" that I have just about given up on! And, yeah, I have done some "difficult" ones quickly (for me). I am just never gonna be a speed solver. Most of my solve times are classified as 'below average."

03-28-2012, 03:39 AM
I never tried to solve cryptos quickly until I found this site. There was no point; if you have a newspaper or a book, there's a finite number of puzzles available. Here, there are tens of thousands. Solving quickly is one way to get to the next one, so I can learn new quotes and authors.

Plus, I type faster than I can write. And auto-fill is the best invention ever.

As for the difficulty ratings, that is purely based on the length of the quote. It has absolutely nothing to do with how hard it is. The logic is that there are fewer letters - and fewer repeated letters - in a shorter quote, making it harder to solve. Doesn't always work that way in practice.

03-28-2012, 04:03 AM
I love the auto-fill, too! Many times when doing pencil and paper cryptos, I would make stupid mistakes just filling in the letters. And i know what you mean about a finite number of print puzzles. I ordered a set of 12 books from Penny Press that were only cryptos, but wondered what I would do after those were done, cause you aren't guaranteed to not get repeats if you order more of the sets.

04-11-2012, 04:01 PM
One thing that aided me, early on, was the first paragraph of Wikipedia entries for authors, which gives you the probable topic of cryptoquotations. These were helpful with obscure U.S. sports personalities. Jerry Coleman ("slides into second with a standup double"). Obscure English clergymen. Etc. Web browsers can be configured to let you select an author's name, right-click, and choose to open the Wikipedia page in a new tab.

The quotations were gleaned from collections, and are the kinds of things that get collected in collections of quotations. Thus, they are chock-full of absolute words: all, none, every, everything, nothing, everyone, no one, always, never, he who, people, etc. Many of these are also pattern words.

Lots of collections are assertedly inspirational. So XGNUFQKINA is friendship. Guaranteed. ;)

06-28-2012, 04:52 AM
It would really be helpful if you will be able to go through the options and be able to work through the issues and concerns to help you get everything to work easily.

But in any cue that you are not really familiar with it, I guess that it would just be about being at ease with the options so that it will not constitute in making it all that harder for you.

06-28-2012, 11:34 PM
I wonder what language an online translator adapted the above message from?


06-29-2012, 01:59 AM
I was sorta wondering the same thing Bansai.

07-08-2012, 02:36 AM
A couple more solving tips: first of all, Nietzsche (sp?) is very predictable. He is always putting down God, faith and morality. In fact, with Nietzsche, if you have a 8-letter word that you suspect is a noun, "morality" is a good guess. Also, Aristotle seldom uses first person. So if you have a quote from Aristotle that has a one-letter word, that word is probably "a." This has not let me down so far.

07-11-2012, 08:07 PM
Also, if you have a one-letter word followed by a two-letter word, it is probably "I am," "I do," or (less frequently) "I go." It would be very difficult, if not impossible to start with "a" for your one letter word, then follow it with a two-letter word.

11-03-2014, 09:35 PM
Clap for the wolfman... he gonna rate your record high. Just moving this thread to page 1 for the wolf.:p

11-05-2014, 02:11 PM
This not a "solving" tip but a way of completing 'grams in a relaxing manner. It assumes you are not in any competitive mode other than finding the solution. I use the on-screen keyboard, set my 'smart' mouses extra button for 'delete', sit back and solve while drinking my coffee with my free hand. I don't start with the first word and type straight through like some folks are capable of doing.

11-25-2015, 03:14 PM
Just moving this thread back to page 1 with this reply. Beginners... refer to page 1 and dig into these little treasures of wisdom from some of the best solvers who have been here for a long long time. :rolleyes:

12-01-2015, 01:37 PM
I look at 3-letter words. If all three letters are different, and the first and third letters occur more often than the second, I put in THE and see if that gives me anything. If all three letters are close in frequency, I try ARE or AND. If the first and third letters are lower than the middle, I try YOU. If the first is significantly lower than the second and third, I try CAN.

Something like X-B-D-X is likely to be THAT.

"XF XL" can be "IT IS" or "IS IT" or even "IS IN" - but the first letter is almost certainly an I.

12-02-2015, 08:44 AM
hint: the word "the" almost never immediately precedes a two-letter word.

12-05-2015, 04:02 AM
"success" has an easy-to-spot letter pattern--"succeed", too. (i love those double sets of double letters!)

01-12-2016, 08:07 AM
two-letter words seldom start with an 'e'.

01-14-2016, 04:45 AM
While I've been trying to get my speed up, I've developed a 'bounce and scan' approach to working through a clue.

After filling in some letters, there may be parts of the puzzle which have an obvious (or highly probable) solution, so I go along filling in letters while I can. At some point I may get to a word that isn't immediately obvious. Instead of taking time to puzzle over this word, I want to get back to filling in more letters ASAP, so, as soon as I get any resistance at all from a word, I 'bounce' off it and switch to rapidly scanning the rest of the puzzle for another obvious part. If there is one (and there often is) I can quickly skip to that and carry on filling in more letters. Basically I want to be typing, not thinking.

01-14-2016, 05:24 AM
Two letter words almost never end in "I".

01-14-2016, 08:27 AM
Basically I want to be typing, not thinking.

And blinking your eyes:D That's a good strategy, and I've done something very similar. If I can see that I'm right about several words in the puzzle but there's one or two that are a bit off, I complete as much as I can. Then I'll hit the reset button, go back to the words I knew I was right about, fill them in, and then I can often see where my mistakes were with the ones that were off.

01-14-2016, 04:33 PM
Pi, eh? :D

01-14-2016, 05:05 PM

Well, oddcouple did say "almost" :p

01-15-2016, 01:53 AM
And wvwoman did say "seldom."

01-15-2016, 02:22 AM
Two warnings about logical meanings:

1. There are punctuation errors. Most of the quotes are fine, but more than a few of them have missing or incorrect punctuation. This means the usual clues that you might take from commas or periods or hyphens may not apply. For example, there are quotes where the subject and verb are separated by a comma for no reason, or where three sentences are strung together with a couple of commas instead of periods. Oh -- and there are some quotes where a dash is shown as a hyphen, so that the opening of this sentence would look like this: BF-YLP DFQGQ (for "Oh -- and there").

2. Abbreviations and acronyms have no periods, so there's no clue in the puzzle that they are not normal words. A frequent culprit is "TV": if you see T_, that word will be "TO" 99% of the time, but if the O is already used, then try TV instead.

Quirks like those can throw you if you are looking for logical meaning. So if the logic isn't working but you are still finding good letter patterns, keep going; just keep decrypting words without expecting logic. You'll either hit a wall and will have to reset, or you'll suddenly see a decrypted quote that you never expected to appear.

01-15-2016, 06:47 AM
Adding to that, beware of WWI and WWII, or even worse World War II. There may even be a WWIII in one quote. And if a contraction is by Pope, consider a D as the apostrophe'd letter.