PUZZLING Quote-Tails

There are times when the addition of as little as one extra element changes things utterly. For instance, take the adage “Nothing is so tragic as an abbreviated life.” A laudable sentiment about infant death rates! Now add the word “sentence” to the end and, voilà! A lament for law and order! Some such transformation occurs in every one of the quotations below.


The simplest kind of code is an inverse alphabet substitution cipher. It is generated by using a keyword (of any length) and then writing out the remaining unused letters of the alphabet so as to end with two rows of thirteen letters each. For example, suppose the keyword were Oglesby. The cipher would then look like this:


The cipher equivalent of any letter is the letter lying directly above or beneath it. So in this code Texas would appear as ANHTP. One help in solving an inverse cipher is that a cipher letter and the letter it represents are reciprocal. That is, if you know that P stands for S, then also each S must represent P. If the keyword has repeated letters, the extra ones must be eliminated, so that Peggy as a keyword would appear as PEGY and deserted would be DESRT.

This puzzle is 13 quotations in different ciphers. The quotes are all legitimate, taken from Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 14th edition. The first order of business is to decode the sayings. Use length and spelling peculiarities of words, their placement, punctuation, etc. to help break each code. Divisions between lines of poetry are shown by a slash. Once a quotation is decoded, you can by deduction set up the ciphers as in the example above, to discover what the keyword was. When the keyword is added to the end of the quote, the sense or meaning of it will be changed radically. The quote plus its tail is required for a complete answer.

For those who like the certainty of possessing the answer book, the list of tails in yet another cipher (and in no particular order) follows:



Need more help? If your intuition fails you, brute force will sometimes work. The most common letter in English is E (12.3 percent frequency) followed by T,A,O,N,1,S,R, and H in that order. The most common two-letter words, in order of frequency, are of, to, in, it, is, be, as, at, so. The most common three-letter words, in order: the, and, for, was, his, not, but, you, are. Four-letter words: that, with, have, this, will, your, from. One or two more may be added to this last list by those attempting this puzzle.

Send the completed puzzle (or reasonable facsimile) to Puzzling, D Magazine, 1925 San Jacinto, Dallas, Texas 75201. All correct solutions will be held for one week after receipt of the first entry, at which time a drawing will take place to determine the winners. First winner will receive a $25 cash prize. Runner-up will receive a free one-year subscription to D. Winners and completed puzzle will appear in the March issue.


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