NKRYPT, located in Canberra Australia, is a set of eight steel pillars that bear encrypted inscriptions. Today, I’m going to introduce one of these: the squircle cryptogram.

Last Sunday, I blogged about NKRYPT, an installation outside the Questacon science and technology centre in Canberra, Australia. NKRYPT was designed by artist Stuart Kohlhagen and installed in March 2013.



Source: Glenn McIntosh

NKRYPT consists of eight stainless steel pillars, labelled from A to H, each covered with several encrypted messages. The following collage gives an overview:

Source: Glenn McIntosh

Contrary to Kryptos and the Cheltenham Listening Stones, which follow a similar concept, NKRYPT has not received much attention in the codebreaking community yet.

NKRYPT is described on the Questacon website and on two fan pages. The latter one is operated by Glenn McIntosh.

Source: Glenn McIntosh

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The squircle cryptogram

Today, I want to focus on an NKRYPT message that is, according to Glenn McIntosh, particularly interesting. This cryptogram is inscribed on the upper part of pillar G. It doesn’t have an official name, so Glenn calls it the “squircle cryptogram“. A squircle is a shape intermediate between a square and a circle.

Source: Glenn McIntosh

As can be seen, the alphabet used here contains only four letters (i.e. squircles). Glenn transcribed these with the numbers from 0 to 3, which resulted in the following 26×10 grid:


Glenn thinks that the squircles are grouped in vertical pairs, which transfers the cryptogram into a 26×5 grid. If this is assumption is correct, there might be a connection between the squircle cryptogram and the two messages on the H pillar (one of these is unsolved).

Considering that there are 26 columns, there is another obvious option: Each column stands for a letter of the alphabet, while every line somehow determines a column. If this is the case, the plaintext might be a ten-letter word.

According to the other NKRYPT website, NKRYPT creator Stuart Kohlhagen said about the squircle cryptogram: “Stuart K writes “Squircles was one of the few of the labyrinth codes that was developed with a bit of encryption strategy.”

If this quote rings a bell or if you have other interesting information about this cryptogram to share, please let me know.

Further reading: $10,000 worth of crypto-currencies hidden in Lego artworks

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Kommentare (2)

  1. #1 Malte Spiegelberg
    Bremen / Germany
    15. Juli 2020

    I’ve been looking on the squircles several times now, but I did not get any solution or a way to a solution. When looking onto NKRYPT in complete, all but one pillar have a code that works in a labyrinth way. Those refer to the “NKRYPT enigma” on one of the pillars. The squircles cryptogramm is, in my view, one of those codes. So Glenn’s proposal that there are five rows of 26 pairs of squircles that form the code would be correct.
    The problem now is that you only have 16 possibilities how two of the squircles can be aligned, so a code could only have 16 different letters, numbers or symbols in plaintext. A frequency analysis shows that this could be a possible way.
    Maybe someone has already broken that one, but I’m not aware of it.
    NKRYPT is one of those really fascinating puzzles, thanks for blogging on it.

  2. #2 Robert
    29. September 2022

    I realize this is an old post, but I thought I could add some insight. All of the 8 pillars contain one “ring” code which is which is worked through in a labyrinth way. It’s not random though; rows 1, 3 and 5 are all read left to right and rows 2 and 4 go right to left. There is exactly one “up” and one “down” movement per row. The other 7 “ring” codes (all of which have been solved) work in this fashion.

    The one possibly incorrect assumption mentioned by the poster above is that the code contains only 16 letters. Dr. Kohlhagen has actually said that each plaintext letter can be represented by multiple squircle patterns, which suggests that you need 4 squircles per letter, not two. I’d note that the DNA ring code on another pillar is solved by doing this very thing. In that case you need to combine three DNA elements to arrive at one plaintext letter. Glenn has a very good description of this on his webpage if anyone is interested.