Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2011 Allen & Ginter, the Ginter Code, and my 2010 Ginter Code Diary

While I'm "off cards" right now, I must admit that this design appeals to me . . . a lot.  I dig the logo box in the bottom right corner and how it's offset diagonally in the upper left hand corner.  Oh, and did I mention that I can't wait for the 2011 Ginter Code.

The Ginter Code series is what spawned my interested in cryptography and cryptanalysis.  I've gained another hobby and am very thankful to Topps for that.  For any of you that are planning to pursue the 2011 code I'd suggest gaining a basic understanding of how cryptography works.

For the 2008, 2009, and 2010 Ginter codes, Topps has employed 3 different forms of transposition ciphers.  They stepped up their game last year by adding a layer of message concealment.  While I'm not a fan of how it was handled they definitely needed a way to try and prolong the code-breaking.  The issue I had with how it was handled last year is that the previous champ had all the incentive to break down and email Topps first.

Have any of you ever defended a title?  Sometimes it can push you to a higher level, sometimes it can make you stressed and panicky.  I believe that either way, no matter who had won the 2009 code probably would have found the 2010 ciphertext (code) first.  You'd want to repeat and if you had been banging your head against the wall as much as we all were last year, you'd eventually do the only thing you could do.  Email Topps.  But the previous champ would have been curious first.  He'd be wondering if someone solved it.  And knowing that an auto-reply message from Topps changed to "Thank you for your submission but the code has been solved." in 2009 once the code had been solved provided a huge incentive for the previous code submitters to find the code last year.  It basically took all-out burnout for Nick Jacoby's team to run into the code last year.  A point I was headed toward, but didn't quite hit.  They hit it faster than me, so kudos to them.

I wanted to add my thought process from the 2010 Ginter Code, and this year I'll be blogging about my attempt to solve the 2011 Code - live - as I'm doing it.  I'm okay with someone beating me to the prize using the info I may or may not be able to provide.  I feel like everyone is competing against Nick Jacoby plus anyone who finds a crack first this year.  I'm not against teams or teaming-up to try and solve the code.  It's exactly what a couple of us did last year.  I just feel like whoever finds some information first will likely want to see if the two time champ can help him/her solve it first.  And that's fine - game on!  I'm excited to take my shot at dethroning the champ.  Last year you could have solved the code just by seeing the actual code and having a decent knowledge of cryptography.  It was basic transposition with some nulls added via the non-baseball player cards.

Anyway, back to 2010.  It's great that I have a gmail log of what we were trying last June/July and I'm happy to share how I got from point A to point B and what we tried in lieu of having the ciphertext to work with.

June 28, 2010 -  Noticed there were no code card scans on Ebay.  Assumed the information was contained in a subset or base set.

June 29, 2010 - Realized there was a 401 card set plus a 75 card subset entitled "This Day In History". One TDIH card included in each pack.

"TDIH feels tacked on for 'no reason'.  plus it has numbers, dates, and players birthdays. Feels more plausible than those subsets that come 2 per box.  That would take forever to gather."

A spreadsheet is created noting all the TDIH cards. Noted that some cards were replaced from the original checklist.  Players base card numbers are logged and birthdays.

June 30, 2010 -  At this point nothing is popping out.  Find out that Celestial Star cards are seeded at one per case.  Acquire scans of all these cards.  Sort all TDIH cards by star sign and break the 75 cards into groups to start searching for the transposition key for each of the 12 star signs.  Start looking for a way to pull one letter off each card.  Birth day number.  Month number.  No luck, the letters that are coming back are not representative of English using frequency analysis.  All of this added to the master spreadsheet.

Per the 2010 solution blog, Nick Jacoby finds the ciphertext by emailing that night.

July 1, 2010 - Noting there are many spelling errors and differences between the front tag line and writing on the back of the TDIH cards. Looking at finding a subset of the cards to find an initial message.  No luck.  Logged all the wording from all the TDIH cards into excel to be able to pull letters from the cards via formulas.

July 2, 2010 - No progress.  Cards are still in Zodiac/Star Sign months.  Still looking for local transposition to find partial messages within each group.  The irony here is that if we have the actual code, we're probably done.  This is why I can applaud Topps for message concealment, just didn't care for the method.

July 2 - July 5, 2010 - I'm out of town for the long holiday weekend, no progress made.  Only notable quote from the weekend:

"I just got done watching two shows on TV.  Wonder Pets and Dora.  Both episodes revolved around getting to Coney Island.  I think this a sign.  Need to look at the card that references Coney Island again. :)"

July 6 - July 16, 2010 - Pretty frustrated, but never emailed the Topps address to see if anyone had won.  Since I had had contact with Nick, I figured if he broke it he'd have told me :)

I didn't figure anyone else was close so I didn't bother to email Topps.  In hindsight it would have been a great decision.  Heck, by this point in 2009 I had emailed in 5-10 crazy solutions all of which would have gotten me the code this year.  I almost wonder if Topps realized only the winners and crazy people emailed that address the previous year and thus decided to hide the code there.  Or conversely I wonder if a lot of people emailed in solutions the previous year so they thought it was a good way to slowly distribute the code.  Either way, total failure on my part.

By July 18th the Jacoby team had put their solution online.

As I stated, I'm very much looking forward to live blogging my attempt on the Code this year.  I need to do something with this blog!  So, until this summer . . .

If you get bored, and need something to read you can click through my profile to my other blog where I'm detailing my efforts to solve a cipher that has went  unsolved for over 70 years.  I'm still working toward the solution - slowly.



  1. Forgot to ask, anyone in for a Ginter tune-up code challenge? I was thinking about putting another one together . . . leave me a note if so.

  2. Sharpe - great post! A few things though:

    1) Just because I was the champ didn't give me any extra head start...anyone who was attempting the code in 2009 would know about the auto response and would have just as much a chance as I did to get the code.
    2) I think you are tremendously simplifying the code. Even once you obtained the cypher there was still a long way to go, as evidenced by all the people who told me they had it but had no clue where to go next. Easy to look at in hindsight, not so easy without a clue.
    3) I don't even know if I'm going to try the code this year, so if I don't, I'd love to see you take the title!
    4) I actually started a blog post last year that I was outlining everything I saw as I was trying to crack the code. I stopped writing in it after a week or so, but I still have the post saved as a draft...I might post it soon!

    Good luck, hope all is well!


  3. I craked the code today,but don't know who to contact. Does anyone know an e-mail address I could contact to claim my winnings

  4. Every code has ended with them telling you exactly who to contact where.

  5. I wanna break the code i need those cards!!!! Raahhh

  6. Thought I had it solved but codemaster didn't reply so I'm still going...

  7. I'm doubtful, after three years, that the code has some sort of ambiguous ending where you wouldn't know what you had to do to win. Especially since the early tweets make it pretty clear you've only got one entry to try.

    The more likely explanation is that the Codemaster will awaken from his drunken slumber again sometime today or tomorrow and give us another rhyming line (what the heck is up with that anyone? I thought his "poem" was done?).

    Then we'll all sit around contemplating how it doesn't really help you do anything and await the next tweet, which based on its ambiguity may or may not be the last one, or the one you need to solve the code.

    Yup, that sounds about right to me.

  8. You attempting the 2013 code? If you are interested in partnering up let me know

    1. Hey Derek. I try not to, but I always do. I could essentially copy paste my last comment in this post from 9/22/2011 and apply it to the current code.