In the end credits of the 2010 movie “Fair Game” some letters are marked. Do they spell out an encrypted message? Nine years after the release of the film, this question is still unanswered.

Five years ago, blog reader Ralf Jäger made me aware of an interesting crypto mystery: in the end credits of the 2010 Hollywood movie Fair Game (starring: Naomi Watts and Sean Penn) some letters are marked yellow.

The mystery

After Ralf’s hint, I watched this movie. I ignored the main part of it and only looked at the end credits. In fact, I saw that some of the letters were marked. According to the web site AboveTopSecret, the marked letters form the following sequence:

CES?OAPCHFHTEOPISFMNADAMECAOREDATN
RAYUURNQWKNUFRCOJRWRMDGSEHUWTOAKRA

The question mark is included because the fourth letter of the sequence is not visible (see below).

I have written about the Fair game code several times before on this blog. It is listed at position 36 in my top 50 unsolved cryptograms list.

When I wrote this article, I looked at the AboveTopSecret transcription shown above again. I’m afraid, it is not correct. In my view, the sequence SEHU in the second line should be EUSH and the sequence OAKR (also in the second line) should be OKAR. I will explain below why I think that this is the case. However, to make things not too complicated, I will keep on using the AboveTopSecret transcription in the following. If you try to solve this cryptogram, keep in mind that a few letters might have to be transposed.

Blog reader Rossignol, a skilled codebreaker and crypto history expert from France, provided me a complete set of screenshots of the Fair Game end credits. The complete set is available here. Here’s an example:

BFG11

As can be seen on the next screenshot, some of the surnames are covered with a white bar (the movie is based on a true story; perhaps the names of some protagonists are hidden for legal reasons):

BFG02

On the following screenshot, you see that one of the marked letters is contained in a hidden surname. This explains why one letter in the message is unknown:

BFG03

The AboveTopSecret transcription lists the marked letters contained in the following two end credit segments as SEHU:

BFG22

BFG23

In my view, the credits should be read column-wise here. So instead of SEHU, EUSH is probably correct.

There is a similar issue in the following segment:

BFG24

Read out column-wise, we get OKAR. AboveTopSecret transcribes these letters as OAKR, which might be wrong.

 

Interesting reader comments

After I had published my first blog article about the Fair Game code, I received the following comment from a reader calling himself Martin Halpin:

Fair-Game-Comment

The comment says (in German):

Don’t focus on the yellow letters, better take them as markers for the following letters.

This comment is the only that has ever been published on Klausis Krypto Kolumne under this name (Martin Halpin is a character in James Joyce’s novel Finnegan’s Wake). My original impression was that the author was probably not a native speaker of German, as the words “kaprizieren”, “Letter”, and “Marker” are quite uncommon in this context. Blog reader Gerhard Strasser remarked that these expressions might have been taken from linguistics. Perhaps, “Martin Halpin” has a background in linguistics.

My suspicion (and my hope) was that the Martin Halpin comment came from the production company of Fair Game. Perhaps, it was an attempt by the film producers to create additional publicity for their code.

Earlier this week, I received another comment of this kind. A blog reader calling himself CJ wrote:

I think maybe you should focus on the letters next to the yellow letters.

Combine all the letters that are exactly left of each yellow letter, or combine all the letters that are exactly right of each letter, or combine both all the letters that are exactly left and right of each yellow letter.

From those groupings of letters try to crack the code.

Richard SantaColoma and Racingdevil48 have provided me the message that results if one takes the letters exactly right of the marked ones:

TAT?DMOTAEAYEPMLEFCICEASEARTIRINSE
ORANAEOUIUGLEAOSADOAUEAYRUSSVWBERR

Here are the letters exactly left of the marked ones:

USY?OSNUTSDSRHOBMASHDESRUILOTVEMAG
PMDOFINCAPIPWGNCNOYANIREHKMELRASEP

Can a reader make sense of one of these messages? I think, nines years after release of the movie, it is finally time to solve the Fair Game code.


Further reading: Who can find the hidden messages in these 16th century texts?

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Kommentare (4)

  1. #1 Dampier
    22. September 2019

    A while ago I found something similar in the captions* of the Vampire/Zombie-Series ‘The Strain’. Some letters are underlined, it seems to be mostly consonants. Here’s an example:

    https://s17.directupload.net/images/190922/kct3kwhg.jpg

    Note that this is the german version. So if there was a hidden code, someone must have translated not only the text but the code as well?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Strain_(TV_series)

    In a (quick) web search I didn’t find any more hints.

    *(The german word would be Einblendungen or Texteinblendungen. In english I found captions, insertions or lower thirds)

  2. #2 Me
    Spain
    23. September 2019

    I bet the code might be readable with a grid:

    1—2—3——4—–5—-6
    —–E———————–
    —————————–T
    S—————————-
    —————–R———–
    ———C——————-
    ———————–E—–

  3. #3 x3Ray
    2. Oktober 2019

    @Dampier #1
    Seems to be typography and no code, as all same letters on your screenshot are marked (F, S, N, H, L, U, Q, 9, W).

  4. #4 Charlotte M
    19. Oktober 2019

    I have to wonder, perhaps by “marker” for the following letters they did not simply mean take the letter to the left or right. Perhaps the yellow letter itself holds more significance? Maybe we need to take the yellow letter’s position in the alphabet and move that many letters right? So for example, if a letter C was highlighted, we should actually be using the letter 3 characters right for the code, as C is the third letter of the Latin alphabet.