Jim Sanborn, the creator of the famous Kryptos sculpture, said his third clue would be the last one. But now he has published another word that appears in the plaintext: EAST.

For those readers who still don’t know: Kryptos is a sculpture located at the entrance of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. It was created by local artist Jim Sanborn in 1990.

Source: Schmeh

Kryptos bears an encrypted inscription, which has become the most famous crypto puzzle of the last 50 years. The sculpture is not accessible to the public.

Source: Dunin



As it turned out, the ciphertext on Kryptos consists of four parts encrypted in different ways. Part 1 is encrypted in a polyalphabetic cipher with the keyword PALIMPSEST, part 2 in the same way with ABSCISSA. In both cases the alphabet is used in a permuted way with the letters K, R, Y, P, T, O, and S standing at the beginning. The third part 3 of the encrypted Kryptos inscription was made with a transposition cipher.

Parts 1-3 of Kryptos were solved three times independently from each other. They were first broken in 1992 by a team of NSA cryptologists, including Ken Miller and Dennis McDaniels. Six years later, CIA employee David Stein found the three solutions, as well. As both the NSA and the CIA kept their codebreaking successes secret, the Kryptos encryption was still considered unsolved publicly, until in 1999 Jim Gillogly …

Source: Gillogly

…, a reader of this blog, found the solution of the three cryptograms and became celebrated as the first one to break them. Only later, the NSA’s and David Stein’s work were published.

Part 4 (also known as K4) is still a mystery. Neither the cipher used nor the plaintext are known. K4 reads as follows:


Over the years, the Kryptos inscription has become one of the most famous encrypted messages in the world and the world’s most renowned crypto puzzle. And thanks to the inscription, the Kryptos sculpture has become one of the most well-known works of modern art.

The community of Kryptos enthusiasts is headed by Elonka Dunin, also co-author of my next book. Check here for her Kryptos web page. Although Elonka has gathered a considerable number of skilled codebreakers around her, all their efforts to break K4 have proven unsuccessful to date.

Source: Schmeh

The fourth Kryptos part is included in almost every list of famous unsolved cryptograms I am aware of, including my top 50 unsolved cryptograms list. There are chapters about K4 in my book Nicht zu knacken and in Craig Bauer’s Unsolved!. In addition, I wrote an article about Kryptos and K4 for the online edition of the German magazine Focus.

And, of course, Kryptos is covered in detail in the aforementioned book Codebreaking: A Practical Guide, written by Elonka and me, scheduled for release in December.


Sanborn’s hints #1-#3

Over the years, Jim Sanborn offered three hints, all of which were published in articles written by John Schwartz for the New York Times:

  • In 2010 Jim Sanborn revealed that the 64th through 69th positions of the fourth Kryptos part decrypt to the word BERLIN.
  • In 2014, Sanborn stated that the word CLOCK follows BERLIN in the plaintext.
  • In January 2020, a third clue appeared in the New York Times. It says that the plaintext contains the word NORTHEAST, at positions 26 through 34.

Codebreakers all over the world tried to decipher K4 with the clues, but to no avail. Sanborn announced that the third Kryptos hint was the last one, but …


Another clue: EAST

On the Kryptos mailing list, recently an intensive discussion started about another word allegedly contained in the Kryptos plaintext. A list member named Sukhwant Singh reported that the word EAST stands immediately before NORTHEAST, which would mean that the expression EASTNORTHEAST is contained in the message. Singh said that he had received this information from Sanborn himself while exchanging emails with him.

I didn’t follow the discussion about the alleged EAST clue, as there were too many mails involved. Nevertheless, I was skeptical about this story, as Sanborn had declared that he would not publish additional clues and I didn’t expect him to change his mind after only six months.

But yesterday, Bill Briere, Elonka Dunin and Richard Bean informed me that Jim Sanborn has now confirmed the new clue. New York Times journalist John Schwartz reported on this on Twitter:

Source: Twitter

It appears that the rumor has now turned to a fact: An additional word EAST is contained in the K4 message.

This means that we now know four words that appear in the plaintext of the fourth Kryptos part. In the following diagram these expressions are displayed above their ciphertext counterparts:





According to Elonka, Sanborn deliberately started to release the clue to the “Kryptos sleuths” that he was corresponding with in April 2020. He said these are unusual and difficult times and he wanted to “spice things up” and was curious to see how long it would take the new information to flow through the Kryptos community.

Four months later, this information has completely flown through the Kryptos community and become official. We’ll see whether the new clue will lead to the mystery finally being solved.

Further reading: A CNN documentary about Kryptos – featuring Elonka Dunin

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Kommentare (12)

  1. #1 Greg
    24. August 2020

    I told you

    again 4th time we can see that calculations presented in previous post are correct:

    EAST clue for (IS_NOT_KR vs IS_KR) = (6 vs 1,5) – pattern again (6/1,5 = 4)

    taking into consideration all clues we get

    average_distance(letters not in {KRYPTOS}) = 8,07

    average_distance(letters in {KRYPTOS}) = 2,1

    based on 11 + 9 + 4 = 24 letters

    KRYPTOS (or something created from these letters) seem to be the key for K4.

  2. #2 TWO
    4. September 2020

    Try your theory on this and see if it fits.


  3. #3 TWO
    7. September 2020

    Or you can try the following :


  4. #4 TWO
    9. September 2020

    This seems tobe the best candidate.

    The math is weird though.

    meets clear combination east
    northeast to erase any smij
    outside nice cafe berlin
    clock anytime the tomb ghosts

  5. #5 Marc
    16. September 2020

    Just an idea for the start of the plain text.

    If the cipher text of K1 is divided into blocks
    of two and the letters of the 1st and the 2nd block
    (EM UF Earth’s Magnetic Field?) are swapped, you also
    get something meaningful:

    IT US EE NS ( "It u see" or "It use E" )

    This could be related to K2 (IT was totally invisible)
    and there is a wierd kind of autokey involved. The first
    plain letter (I) ist the fourth key letter (+3) and
    the fourth plain letter (S) is the seventh key letter (+3):

    12 31 23 12
    P- -I -- S-
    I- -S -- -- ( "It u see" or "It use E" )

    Doing the same with K4 yields something interesting,
    but first you have to insert a Y between K and R, what
    could be related to the trigram KYR in K1:


    I’m pretty sure that you have to insert more letters
    at intervals of 5 (probably the letters starting from
    YP in the second half of K4 as shown above). Now let’s take a closer look at the result:

    12 31 23 12
    P- -O -- U
    O- -U -- -

    The regular decryption produces:

    12 31 23 12
    P- -O -- U-
    Y- -W -- D- (maybe YESWOND)

    and after completing the key letters in order to get YESWOND:

    12 31 23 12
    PW QO VY U
    YE SW ON D-

    As you can see, the key letters on position 2 (WVU) do also have a kind of structure (count backwards). No idea about position 3, but the the first bigram OB and the key letters PW share another secret. If you swap OB as shown above (BO) and decrypt it with PW, you get the original bigram OB again.

    At this point, however, the “system” no longer works, but there is this X. Therefore I believe in an additional transposition step starting with the X.

  6. #6 TWO
    25. September 2020

    A better candidate:

    Stars clear combination east
    north east east ask any mode
    set wide angle I go Berlin
    clock a NY Times in top secrets

  7. #7 Marc
    26. September 2020

    this one looks good, you should publish this on wikipedia

  8. #8 TWO
    26. September 2020


    Thanks but I am not an cryptoanalyst.

    So what are the chances that it is even close to a solution?

    Still Bing(o) in Saigon and Tango in Berlin is indeed a stenographic thingie.

    There is no need to publish it on Wikipedia

  9. #9 BREAKER
    18. November 2020

    So the interesting part that I found intriguing was that of the nature of the rules changing.

    First a strict policy of communicating with people through a mail in, which got flooded, and the changeover to Paypal. Then he just throws out a hint to a single person about a continuation of a clue after saying that NORTHEAST was his last?

    I witnessed on the FB Kryptos Discussion Group someone that came on there and spoke about this EAST NORTHEAST clue as being a possible variable, from some research he was doing, but left it as a possibility.

    Apparently the person named Singh came onboard in his own time of research later and ran with the idea….mailing in something to Sanborn that got him to use that very online rumor I mentioned coming out beforehand.

    It seems that someone has been watching the FB group and that rumor that was started up is now being passed around by Sanborn to a random appellate of his puzzle, to see how fast the rumor spreads

    This shows that they are corralling cryptographers to use online discussions for mining intelligence about it all.

    Why the need to spread a rumor about someone’s active line of research if they have not submitted a solve to Sanborn? That is somewhat invasive IMO and a diversion from the course he set as the rule.

    This shows an unofficial claim being reinforced by the maker of the puzzle having been given the info from reading the site? From someone that has informed him of progress being made after the release of NORTHEAST.

    The other part I found interesting is the part where you take the K4 Ciphertext and add the solved words EASTNORTHEAST and BERLINCLOCK to the line directly underneath them.

    The part that is more intriguing than the mere plaintext solve is the combination of them that seem to form a secondary message together in an Old English Box Cipher

    Not that it matters according to the man judging it, but take a look at how it aligns and see what you can find in them combined:


    He said he was wanting to “Spice things up” maybe hinting at reading the FLRV as Flavor?

    Now onto the last segment


    Can easily see BERLINTN VT in the Box Cipher made of a part of the text similar to how you can find DIE HARD in the same fashion in the ciphertext of the ribbon.

    The puzzle was designed to pass a message onto an “Agent in the field” and there were two layers….one a “WEST X” and the other in the “NORTHEAST”

    The lodestone/compass piece also draws out the map of the two locations of these Agents and were made to be used to create the reveal of their hideouts, having had previous names elsewhere during their affairs.

    Seeing that the attention is being drawn to these clues he seems to be now trying to add whatever he wants to the puzzle just to take attention from these obvious discoveries.

    Any idea why he would be trying to keep people from discovering this all while playing word games?

  10. #10 TWO
    27. April 2021

    An observation.

    Set line length to 23.


    Skip Start 79 Skip 2 Encode


  11. #11 ONE
    9. Juli 2021


    WOB KRU O(X)OG HUL (W in, X out)

    YES CIA ??? ??? ?T HEQ UES TI?

  12. #12 Narga
    29. Januar 2023

    Taking a fresh look at KRYPTOS, I’m more than ever convinced that CLOCK is just the beginning of CLOCKWISE. With EASTNORTHEAST being a direction possibly to be followed on location from the coordinates given in K2, a second indicator like CLOCKWISE seems much more likely than an ambiguous reference (in the sense that no “BERLIN CLOCK” is actually known by that name) to an object that far away within the same 97 characters. There is also a piece of the Berlin Wall on CIA HQ grounds not too far from KRYPTOS, so maybe it’s all connected in K5…