Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday Search Challenge (Oct 13, 2010): Cipher search

Here's a search problem from my friend Erin McKean, the CEO of the most excellent site 

This is a puzzle she sent to me a few weeks ago.  I worked on it for a while but didn't have any luck.  

Maybe you can do better?  

(Fair warning.  There may NOT be a web-only answer to this.  Still, ANY answers would be very much appreciated.  Please let us know how you solve it!) 

Search on! 

From Erin:

There is a famous (well, it was famous when I was a boy) story of a
journalist who needed to file in difficult circumstances. He couldn't
use a cipher, because it would be blocked; he couldn't file the truth,
because it would be censored. Eventually, he sent  a message (telegram,
I assume) which was obviously using English words and phrases, but not
making any sense. Presumably, either the censors skimmed over it and let
it go, or were not willing to admit that it beat their knowledge of the
language. His office had great difficulty with it, too, until some lowly
type (the office boy?) suggested that he had written the whole thing in
the most hackneyed of newspaper clichés, and then only sent part of each
phrase; the story was conveyed in the missing parts. [Cf. rhyming
slang.] The only words of it that I can remember are the last few: "ye
angels incorrigible"; meaning 'mercy' and 'liar'. 

Do you know the story, and where I can find the rest of it? 

I would guess that I read it in Arthur Mee's 'Children's Encyclopedia'. 
I know the idea was used in one of the stories in 'Eagle': my favourite 
comic during the 1950s.

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