The cryptographer and the armchair sleuth.
You have to picture them. Two men sitting at a table in a hotel, one drinking Jamaican rum the other a Banana Daiquiri.
The first puzzle to be sorted is which one is which because we can’t hear what they’re saying to each other, especially the rum drinker, who’s just smacked the table very hard with his open palm.
The bar hushes for an instant as everyone looks around for the source of the minor thunderclap.
The rum drinker.
‘The trouble with you, mate, is that nobody has asked you the one question you haven’t dared to ask yourself.’
The BD drinker.
‘The trouble with you, sport, is that it takes a week to figure out what you’re talking about.’
They pause. A delicate sip of BD, a good swallow of rum.
‘You say it doesn’t matter what Rubaiyat was sent to the cryptographers as long as it was a ‘similar’ copy, right?’
‘And they were happy with that?’
‘We can assume so as there was no mention of difficulties in the report.’
‘And you’re happy with that as well.’
They pause. A sip of delicate BD, a swallow of good rum.
‘So now there’s two of you.’
Cryptographers without a FUCKING clue!!’
‘Which one of them did this?’ asked the bar manager as he surveyed the jagged split on the tabletop.
‘Well, it wasn’t the bald bloke drinking Daiquiri. He probably thought the next smack was going to be heading his way.’
This post is the result of a pleasant online exchange with Nick Pelling of Cipher Mysteries some weeks ago, himself an avid researcher and Somerton Man theorist (the Prosper T and Blackmarket variety). Pelling ascribes to the view held by the BD drinker in that the real Rubaiyat wasn’t necessary when tasked with finding a means by which the code might have been understood.
The only question I didn’t ask Pelling was what made him so certain there was nothing inside the original Rubaiyat that would help.
But there was no need to as I knew what his response would be, inasmuch as I know there’s no way on earth he will volunteer an answer. That might lead him onto a path he’s never wished to tread.