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:


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:


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):


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:


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



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:


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:


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:


Here are the letters exactly left of the marked ones:


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 (10)

  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:

    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?

    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
    23. September 2019

    I bet the code might be readable with a grid:


  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.

  5. #5 CrazyT
    5. Januar 2020

    The order of left and right marked letters do not seem to be random.
    I think there is a pattern.
    See my comment on the other post.
    Although i’m not completely shure if that pattern generates an image with the letters GHQ, because the Q is badly readable.
    Atleast some pixels line up … this can’t be the case if they didn’t do it intensionally.

  6. #6 CrazyT
    6. Januar 2020

    Made an image to show what i meant by my comment on the other post:

    Sadly some pixels seem to be wrong …
    I marked 2 of them because there should clearly be a gap if it is really about 3 Letters.

  7. #7 CrazyT
    9. Januar 2020

    Call me crazy, because i made a google colab jupyter notebook:

  8. #8 CrazyT
    10. Januar 2020

    I’m honest, its not that easy to decrypt, currently i got:

    (yes i know that manager is written wrong)

    And i’m not really shure if everything is in correct position.
    But by now it should be clear that it really just has to do with the characters after the marked letters.
    Well either that or my imagination just surprises me again.

  9. #9 CrazyT
    12. Januar 2020

    Changed my mind about “DEVANIC KILLER”
    Its probably something like:


    But I’m still clueless about the rest.
    I must admit that without the key its nearly impossible to figure out the rest.
    Maybe the key is hidden inside the movie itself, or it is within the credits, just not visible on first sight.

    Maybe I need to read some more about the story ..
    It is hard to tell what the content would be without knowing 100% of the background storry.

  10. #10 Edward Ravn
    22. März 2021

    This reminded me of a code-string that I saw in the book “Bluebird : Deliberate Creation of Multiple Personality by Psychiatrists” by Colin A. Ross (published year 2000).

    The book used to be available on for Kindle and the book review showed the first couple of pages where there was a long random-looking string of alphanumeric characters by itself.

    It has apparently since then been republished under the name “The CIA Doctors: Human Rights Violations by American Psychiatrists” and this version is available for Kindle and it also has a similar code string (but I do not know if it is exactly the same as in the previous version).

    Seeing the string does not require buying the book. It is visible in the Kindle book review, just after the Table of Contents.

    (Also I am not sure if it is even relevant for anything. Maybe the author embedded it in the hopes of getting publicity?)

    But for reference, the code is 44 characters long and looks like this: