Sunday, January 12, 2014

Every Detail of the 2013 Set

Continuing the 2013 Ginter Code saga, I'll pick up where I left off.

The Soap Minister tweet is 119 characters in length when counting the spaces and punctuation. While you could remove the spaces and punctuation and leave yourself with 103 characters, that doesn't seem correct to me. Here's why:

He was singer, than soap minister. Sometimes considered great wooded rulers, ancient south German warriors sprung. End.

He was singer, then soap minister. Sometimes considered great wooded rulers and ancient south German warriors sprung.

So, why not just do that? It's the same jibberish you've got before with no misspellings. "End." is likely important as a clue, since he mentioned it in three straight clues. It's also possible that creating the misspelling gives away the piece of text as a cipher rather than just random words. Either way, he went to some effort to use an extra space and a period

Now, let's track back to the "every detail of the 2013 set I was working on" comment from Colin.

Why not look at some cards? Here's the base card from my favorite breakout player from last year, Starling Marte alongside Derek Jeter and Mike Trout


Nothing suspicious going on there, right? I agree. How about their mini base cards?


Now we can play the Sesame Street game. One of these things is not like the othersOne of these things just doesn't belong, Can you tell which thing is not like the others. Derek Jeter is the answer. If you look closely at the Marte card, the background color (yes, I'm well aware this was used in 2009 with three colors) changes from what I'll call "Yellow/Pink" to blue. On Trout's card, the background color goes from one of the varieties of Blue (yes, there are several) to "Dark Red".

Now here is the statistically interesting part. First of all, there are exactly 20 different "splotches" used on the 2013 cards. The base cards seem to be approximately uniformly distributed on cards 1-300 when a "real" background isn't used (aka the horizontal cards).

If the color for the mini was selected indepently from the base card color, and at random, we shouldn't expect to see any of the mini backgrounds match the base card backgrounds, but I've just shown you that it happens. How many times does it happen? 119. I'm not a degree carrying mathematician, but 119 seems statistically different than 0. It's also odd that all the cards in the SPs from 301-350 do not have any color differences in their mini cards. It just stops at 300. Also, all of the non-baseball players do not have any color differences on their mini cards. So these were hardly chosen at random.

So while I'm pretty positive that this is the link to the soap minister tweet, I have no idea how it plays into the modular math from right to left in the "monikers" nor do I know how that links to the 13 clues from September which point to all sorts of different cards. Unless those were just meant to get people looking at the set to find this subset of 119 cards. I will mention that if you go down this rabbit hole and try to verify the 119, you're going to need to set aside an entire 8 hour day to do so. You'll have to sort through the different shades and train your eye to see the specific patterns in each of the 20 colors so that you can see when Blue differs from Other Blue.

Friday, January 10, 2014

So You Wanna Be A Soap Minister?

Where to begin with the 2013 Ginter Code? The now infamous Soap Minister tweet is my contention.

It was a beautiful August day. The 24th to be precise. I had spent the day lounging by a friend's pool when word came in that new Ginter Code clues had been released to go along with the Bring Colin Back! blog/letter. Happy times - it was finally time to get started after waiting two weeks! (in hindsight, two whole weeks was nothing).

"The note at the top implicates me, but I'm not sure what help my letter could be"

"The order is lost, but can be regained. In the Codemaster's letter it is explained" 

"He was singer, than soap minister. Sometimes considered great wooded rulers, ancient south German warriors sprung. End." - The Codemaster 2013/08/24

With these clues in hand, many of us would be codebreakers began tearing them apart. Most everyone I talked with was trying to find a way to link all the words in the "Soap Minister" tweet to words on the backs of various subset cards. For all I know this is still what you are supposed to do, but my first thought upon reading that tweet, with the than/then typo was that we were dealing with a ciphertext.

Colin did say "Unfortunately, as quickly as I can write the instructions down, they disappear behind my pen." Therefore it seems reasonable that he had to resort to writing his message down with the letters out of order so that they could pass through on his paper.

It is possible to anagram an entire sentence or paragraph into another readable (mostly) piece of text. I'd done such a thing in the past during some of my cryptography hobby time just to see what could be done. The main issue is that you need to pick out some larger words to construct up front so that what you're writing makes at least a lit bit of sense. Then fill in with smaller descriptive words. This tweet struck me as a product of this sort of angramming.

Whether or not you believe this is what was done to the "Soap Minister" tweet, that's the stance I'm taking and my attempts to solve it have been focused on this approach.

The issue with using this sort of cipher/ciphertext is that once you've reordered your original (plaintext) message into a fake message, you've set a key equal the number of characters that you'd need to communicate. From a security standpoint this is brilliant because it's essentially the transposition equivalent of a One-Time Pad.

However, there is the issue of communicating the key to the would be solver. Afterall, this is meant to be solved. This is much different that taking a piece of plaintext and applying an algorithm to rearranging the letters so that they come out random on the other side (See Also: The 2011 Ginter Code).

In order to decode this cipher, something that is 119 in length (if you include spaces and punctuation from the tweet) will have to be given an order corresponding to the key. I think that's likely the order we're looking to restore, but it's speculation.

Prior to the August tweets listed above, most of my time (and working with three friends their time as well) was spent cataloging all the oddities in the set. The Across The Years subset stood out straight away. There were 12 people's birthdays listed on the backs of the 100 card subset, with the exception of 15 cards where only 11 people were listed and one other card (Dylan Bundy's) which only listed 10.

Now, as we all know by now, Colin, the mystery man lost in time, isn't just a mystery man. He's actually an editor. So it may have made sense that when he said he had constructed the code around the cards found in the set he was working on at the time that he may have meant the Across The Years subset. We thought this suspicion was confirmed as we trolled through all the birthdates and realized that a large number of the people who were purported to share a birthday with the card's coverboy actually didn't have birthday's that day. Perhaps because the editor, Colin, wasn't there to catch the mistakes yet?  Who knows. But that definitely hit a dead end when we realized that some people were listed under the same birthday more than once and that some simple Googling would show that even Google had conflicting information for their birthdates. Still others had no recorded birthdates at all. Other's like Clay Matthews just conveniently left off the "III", otherwise his would have matched. Ditto with a couple of missing "Jr"s. But I think the fact that there were 60+ error birthdays (6 on one card alone, all off by exactly one month) means it wasn't an accident. But I do believe them to be red herrings for the aforementioned reasons.

Anyway, back when I was down the ATY rabbit hole I did notice something slightly odd (statistically speaking). Every subject in the ATY subset was also in the base set. I went back to all the previous years of A&G where there was an 80 or 100 or 75 card large subset and noted this never happened. Not even close. I also noted that every player in the SSPs this year was a subject from the ATY subset, but that's because those are always pulled from the base set.

I still feel like the ATY cards have something to do with the mystery this year, but without any additional information I have nothing to really do with them. We know from all the past codes, this isn't a brute-force-able exercise. There are exact steps, to be done in a precise order, that yield readable messages.

Oh yeah, then there were the 13 September clues. Which I'm pretty much ignoring at this point, because I have no idea what 13 has to do with anything. Perhaps it relates to the tweet about counting backwards from the last letter of a "moniker" to the front. But what moniker? Last name? Nickname? First name? Team Nickname? Who? What? I have no idea. Baseball players often have nicknames, like Tim Lincecum is "The Freak", but you have other players from those September clues where they either have multiple nicknames or the clue seems to allow for multiple correct interpretations (Reggie Jackson, Red Schoendienst, Frank Robinson). I've never heard anyone make sense of all 13 of those clues. You may have interpreations, but unless you've gone on to do something with them, you're in the same boat as everyone else I'd guess.....waiting.

I get the feeling the 13 September clues are this year's version of the 2011 tiny backward imprecise clocks. But it feels like the same problem that plagued 2011 is plaguing this year's code, we may recognize these clues point to people like R.A. Dickey, McKayla Maroney, etc, but even if I had all 13 of those correct and even if I looked up all their nicknames (btw, some say R.A. Dickey's nickname is the King, as in the BK King, the side by side picture is worth the price of Googling), and counted backwards through them from the end, and even if I took the leap of faith that I was supposed to always count backward 12 spaces (where 3 can be 12 when 9 is the end, aka modular math) I haven't found that to be helpful yet either.

Then there's the ultimate problem, in 2011 he proved that even when we the codebreakers thought we had enough to solve the code, there was no chance. This year, codebreakers face that same problem. We have no interest in devoting any more time to this puzzle if we don't even know that we can solve it.

I think I'll end this long rambling code diatribe here, and I'll note that yes, I saw all the typos in the subset card "numbers" like the "NOW" for New World Order card, and that Castle card that has a letter in the card "number" that has no reason to be there, but again, if those are not red herrings, I have no idea how they connect. Weird Pele card, check. Bunch of other stuff that I've probably forgotten along the way.

The one thing that gives me some hope is there is a subset of 119 cards in the base set that can be parsed out very easily (with a lot of grunt work) that may factor into solving the 119 character Soap Minister tweet, but I'm too burned out to explore that angle any further. Especially when the September clues don't seem to connect to anything at all.

The end. Good luck to anyone still working on this thing, you're crazy (in a good way).

Thursday, June 7, 2012

2012 Ginter Code?

This cartoon was passed along to me from a friend.  It is the only thing that made me laugh at the plight that was the 2011 Ginter Code :)

Apparently this blog is now only devoted to the Ginter Code.  I promised I'd swear off the code after they labled the puzzle cards as "code parallels" on last years packs, but I'm a glutton for punishment.

I'll be back.  I really hope this year's code doesn't rely on a bread-crumb trail over a 9-month period.  I love the Ginter Code and all, and puzzle solving in general, but that really took a toll on my interest last year.  I don't ever want to think about another puzzle for 9 months.  I already spend half my life trying to solve Kryptos.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Ginter Code, finally some progress

The last four tweets that the Codemaster blasted out a few weeks back did limit the search field, and also sucked me back in for a bit on the code.

Since he was nice enough to tell us that the the clocks on the ad cards pointed to baseball cards my brain was focused enough to finally see the connection.  I've shared this revelation with a couple people thus far, and one other code-head(?) agreed with me.  So perhaps me, I, we, us, they, them, all ya'll are onto something finally.

That being said, even if you haven't landed on which cards the clocks point to, what would you do with those cards?

I had been thinking about that right after I read the tweets.  I thought to myself "even if I had the cards, how would I know they were the right cards and what would I do with them?"

That's the kicker this year, you have to believe enough in your method to get from times on a clock to baseball cards to move blindly to the next section of breaking the code.  If you haven't already read the account on how the 2008 code was broken, you should do yourself a favor and do that now because I feel like this code will have some similar properties.

Okay, so we're back to the 2011 code in all its backwards-clocky-goodness.  You have 10 code cards infront of you.  Some of the corners of these cards have symbols on them which you have translated into numbers by either using your decipher cards (which have the numbers on the back in some way shape or form) or you put the puzzle together and realized the first row of the puzzle, plus the next symbol from the second row represent numbers 1-30.  I'm sure after 4 months this isn't news to anyone who has looked at the Ginter Code.

What may boggle your mind is what the heck to do with the numbers on each of the corners of the cards you've pulled.  And it should, because that's what's stopping you from decoding the message this year.  And it's stopping me right now too.

So, if you are burned out on trying to figure out how to find the gosh darned correct cards, sit back and think about how you'd use the numbers in each corner of the cards to decipher the Codemaster's poem.  It's not going to be magic, but it's certainly not going to be straightforward either.

Just remember, no one ever solved a code by staring at it, you've got to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.  Just keep trying different things, but above all else try to think about how you'd turn a message into numbers using the poem.

That is all.  I'm out for now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Re-alignment? How I'd Blow Up Baseball And Start Over

The Astros to the AL eh?  Instead of something simple, let's just blow it all up.  Why not?  All the records are tarnished from steroids anyway, right?  Let's just start over and usher in a new era of baseball.

Starting with the divisions.  Four.  Four divisions.  North, South, East and West.  There are no leagues anymore.  The AL and NL are gone.  As is the crazy All-Star game to decide who gets homefield advantage (stay with me, we'll get there).

What's left?  Glad you asked.

MLB East
Toronto Blue Jays
New York Yankees
New York Mets
Boston Red Sox
Philadelphia Phillies
Baltimore Orioles
Washington Nationals

MLB South
Miami Marlins
Tampa Bay Rays
Atlanta Braves
Houston Astros
Texas Rangers
St. Louis Cardinals
Kansas City Royals

MLB North
Minnesota Twins
Milwaukee Brewers
Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox
Detroit Tigers
Cleveland Indians
Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates

MLB West
Seattle Mariners
San Francisco Giants
Oakland Athletics
San Diego Padres
Los Angeles Dodgers
Anaheim Angels
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies

There we go.  While we're at it, since it's just MLB and there isn't an AL/NL, we have to make a decision on the DH.  I feel like it's inevitable that the DH will win out someday, so let's just get on with it.  I like the strategy of the NL too guys, but I'm making a concession here.

Let's move onto the schedule and playoffs.  For starters, we're going to shorten the season slightly to accommodate a larger playoff system.  This is win-win.  It allows us to further distance ourselves from the tarnished steroid-era records, and gives us a chance to expand the postseason and only play 7 game series.  5 game series are lame.  I'll sacrifice a couple weeks of the regular season for better postseason play.

All four division winners are in the playoffs, and then we've got 8 wild cards to dish out.

Round 1 of the playoffs is the wildcard round.  It will be seeded based on record.

#1 BYE
#5 v #12
#7 v #10
#4 BYE

#2 BYE
#6 v #11
#8 v #9
#4 BYE

Round 2 of the playoffs is the divisional round and will feature the divisional winners (who did not play during the first round) against the winners of the wildcard round.  Imagine the NCAA brackets, but slightly modified.  #1 gets the lowest seed to come out of the 5/12 and 7/10 games with #4 getting the leftovers.  Same goes for #2 and #3 on the other side.

Round 3 of the playoffs is the championship round.  The Final Four.  Let's do this.

Of course Round 4 of the playoffs is the World Series.

I reckon we're going to need to shorten the regular season to approximately 148-150 games to fit in the new playoff system, and we're going to need some more cable carriers to step up and broadcast all the games.

As for the regular season, each team in the 8 team divisions will play 13 games against each divisional rival.  That's three 3-game series, and a 4-game series.  Each team in the 7 team divisions will play 14 games against each divisional rival.  That's two 3-game series and two 4-game series.  This leaves each team in the 8 team divisions with 57 games to play against other teams in the MLB.  Each team in the 7 team divisions has 64 games to play against other MLB teams.  You'll average a 2 or 3 game series against every other team in baseball.  This is about as fair as it gets people!

In case you are wondering how the season would have turned out, your division winners and 1-4 seeds would have been:

Phillies (East)
Brewers (North)
Rangers (South)
Diamondbacks (West)

The Wildcard round would have featured these matchups:

Yankees v. Angels
Rays v. Braves
Tigers v. Giants
Cardinals v. Red Sox

Let's assume all the teams that made the playoffs moved on you'd have seen a Divisional round like this:

Phillies v. Yankees
Rays v. Diamondbacks
Brewers v. Tigers
Cardinals v. Rangers

I get a smile on my face just thinking about all of this.  And I consider(ed) myself a baseball traditionalist.

Oh yeah, one last thing, home field advantage in each round goes to the best record, and the format will be 2-2-1-1-1 for the seven game playoff series.

Friday, September 23, 2011


It's Matt Kemp's birthday today. In honor of this occasion:

"I'd like to wish Matt Kemp happy birthday today,even though most of the codebreakers have gotten sour. Cheer up, sit back and wait for a tweet to come out slightly half past some hour."

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ryan Braun is the NL MVP

With apologies to Matt Kemp, who is having a great year for a terrible team, I hereby proclaim Ryan Braun NL MVP.

There are a bunch of players in consideration, the Phillies aces, Justin Upton, Albert Pujols, etc, etc . . . but in the end the clear choice is Ryan Braun and I'm not just being a homer about it.

Braun currently leads Kemp in AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS. Sure, he trails him by a few homers and stolen bases, and sure, Kemp may end up a 40/40 guy, but I don't care.

Maybe the steroid era ruined me. 40 homers just doesn't sound like that many anymore. Maybe if Matt Kemp was going to hit 58 homers and steal 40 bases I'd give him a second look despite his  team's lackluster performance, but he's not going to do that.

Maybe if Matt Kemp was going to steal 80 bases, something really amazing, I could get on board. But what if Matt Kemp is just taking off for second base after every single chasing the 40/40 club thing? I mean, I would. My team is going nowhere, who cares if I'm thrown out. MVP! MVP! Run Matt, run!

Sorry, I'm coming off as a Kemp hater, and I'm not. He's a terrific player and would be even more deserving of the two man fight for the MVP if the Dodgers were headed to the postseason, but they aren't - so he isn't.

Ryan Braun should finish up with around 35 HRs and nearly 40 steals as well. As I said with Kemp, neither total is mind boggling, but in a two man race, the tie goes to Braun.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Silly Codemaster, Tricks Are For Kids!

Dear Codemaster:

Since you have some sort of conduit into the "masses" trying to solve the code, let me give you this to chew on.

No one is quitting, but they could be frustrated because you are straight gaming us. Make with the clues man. I mean, I do love devoting a giant space in my house to an entire set of cards laid out side by side but I'm pretty positive my wife is just going to pick them up and burn them pretty soon. And that's going to make me sad.

Plus, I'm guessing this little chunk of society trying to solve the code, those 613 followers would love to go back to being productive members of society soon. Just a thought.

What's more, do you hear that? All I hear are these wild geese everywhere. It's going to take months to clear them off my property.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Dear Mr. Codemaster, Where Did You Go?

Time for another "where'd the Codemaster go?" post. Seems like every time I post something to this effect he wakes up from his drunken slumber, shaves off his 4 day old beard, gets himself back into shape and manages to fire off another line from his "poem".

I get the idea of wanting to control the pace of the code so that they can make it last longer, but this may be the most boring thing I've ever participated in.

I reserve the right to amend that statement if at some point during this lollygagging something substantial happens and then fun begins.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ginter Code, moving at the speed of molasses

Hey, so, if any of ya'll out there are working on this thing, and need scans of anything, just let me know. Willing to share everything I've collected to generate more interest in this thing while it plods along at a snails pace. I require nothing in return, just want to see those interested get everything they need to move forward.