Martin Gardner, one of the world’s most renowned science journalists, dedicated one of his books to a certain OSVVZ ZYTZC KJLQZ. Can a reader decipher this encrypted name?
For decades, I have enjoyed the books of US popular science writer Martin Gardner (1914-2010).
Already in my school days, I loved Gardner’s famous books about recreational mathematics, which are based on his long-running column in the Scientific American. Like me, Gardner was a member of the skeptics society of his home country (in his case it was CSI, in my case it’s the GWUP). His 1957 book Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, which I can highly recommend, became a classic and seminal work of the skeptical movement (my book Planeten und Propheten, which I can also highly recommend, was a little less successful, but I consider it a classic of the skeptical litertature, too ;-).
Martin Gardner was interested in cryptography. His Scientific American article A new kind of cipher that would take millions of years to break from August 1977 was the first publication describing the RSA crypto algorithm. It pre-dated even the research paper RSA inventors Rivest, Shamir and Adleman published.
Gardner wrote a cryptography book titled Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing, which gives a basic introduction to the subject.
In my view, Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing is not necessarily one of Gardner’s masterpieces. There are certainly better crypto books on the market. It’s a nice read, anyway.
Today, we only look at the first page of this book, which contains a dedication:
As can be seen, Gardner dedicated his crypto book to a person (or several persons) with the following name(s):
OSVVZ ZYTZC KJLQZ
Apparently, these 15 letters represent an encryption. The plaintext is not known to me.
Of course, this cryptogram is too short for a meaningful statistical analysis. At least, we can see that the letter Z appears four times, which means that over a fourth of the letters appearing in this ciphertext are Zs. It is hard to say, whether this cryptogram has been created with a MASC or another standard encryption technique. Perhaps, it’s a Vigenère cryptogram encrypted with a word that plays a certain role in the book.
Can a reader decipher this dedication? Is the solution already known? If you know something, please leave a comment.
Edited to add:
In the original version of the article, a letter of the transcription was wrong.