Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Cryptoquotes Work

Solving Cryptoquotes

There are many strategies for solving a cryptoquote successfully and improving your time. Syndicated puzzle author Denise Sutherland recommends looking at one-, two- and three-letter words first. Start with any one-letter words, since there are only two words in the English language that are spelled with one letter: "I" and "a." And because all two-letter words include a vowel, thinking about them next is a good strategy, as you may be able to identify or eliminate a few vowels quickly.

Sutherland also recommends looking for words with double letters; for example, "BKKV" could be "feel" or "look." Words with apostrophes frequently end in "S," or they could be a common contraction that ends in "T," like "wouldn't" or "don't." In addition, consider sentences that end with a question mark. Since questions most often begin with "who," "what," "when," "why," "where" and "how," you might be able to decode a few letters right away.

Don't forget that no letter can substitute for itself in a cipher and that the message in a cryptoquote isn't necessarily your only clue to solving the puzzle. Also look at the person to whom the quote is attributed. Many quotes are credited to "Anonymous" or "Source Unknown." Also, think about commonly quoted people, like the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King or Mark Twain.

As with most brain games, the more you play with cryptoquotes, the better you'll get, and you might even decipher some strategies of your own in the process. If you're really into solving cryptoquotes and other cryptology puzzles, the American Cryptogram Association is a good place to find resources about hundreds of ciphers and tips for solving cryptoquotes. With a mission to put cryptograms in the same league as chess, members get together yearly at a conference dedicated to the hobby of cryptogram puzzles.