Saturday, 23 November 2013

Mulholland Books Cipher Contest Answer

If you entered the Mulholland Books S. Cipher Contest you should have heard if you were a winner.

I was not, mainly because I am from the UK and was ineligible to enter ! However I did submit an entry and received an email to say that I was not a winner but had solved the cipher correctly. As the answer is now published on the Mulholland website I think we are safe to post the answer here as well.

The clue in the original question was of course "Follow these lines, from first to last, and play fair" so like in the book you take the first and last letters of the passages in the tweets - MC FR NM SH XM CS - and feed the result into a play fair cipher.

For the grid code word you need to use the next part of the clue "the bearded sailor sees all", the bearded sailor in S. is of course Maelstrom, which gives us this grid


Using the Playfair cipher rules the result is - ST RA KA LI VE SZ, which gives us the answer "Straka Lives" (The z is a filler letter)

If you don't know the rules of Playfair, then there is this online version you can use to decode the message.

So apart from a bit of fun is this another clue ?

If you won the competition we would love to hear from you especially once you have claimed your prize and had your lunch with J J Abrams and Doug Dorst.


We have heard from the winner, Kris from the BOLO Books website, he won and has had his lunch with Doug Dorst and J J Abrams.

Read all about his experience of this and the talk at Symphony Space on his BOLO Books write-up


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  2. If we consider the "Straka lives" message together with the "/stillalive" file extension at the Who Is Straka? Tumblr, it seems fairly clear where we're being directed this week.

    Further confirmation of this message, although conveyed a lot more indirectly, seems to come from the Eotvos Wheel site. The four crime-scene photos, purportedly from 1946, are on Ilford IP5 film. That's an impossibility, because IP5 film was launched on the market in 1975. This is such a glaring, in-our-faces, two-decade anachronism surely has to be intentional. So, if the Havana photos were faked long after Straka's supposed death, it's probably safe to assume that Caldeira's account of Straka's death in Havana in 1946 is also completely false.

    Which neatly brings us back to the same message: "Straka lives"/"still alive".

    Caldeira may have been covering up for Straka after learning he wasn't dead, he may have been complicit in his faked death, telling the Havana story with Straka's knowledge or even at his instigation, or, of course, Caldeira may himself be Straka.

    I'm not sure that this takes us any closer to any useful answers, but at least it would seem to confirm that we can discount anything Havana-related as a false trail laid by - or at least fabricated in the interests of - the still-alive Straka.

  3. I'm sorry, but anyone who has known Straka for that long without seeing his or her face could not, in my mind, view the crime scene and the cloth-covered body without running down the stairs and ripping the cloth from the face of the corpse. I would even go so far as to follow the car to the morgue and THEN rip the cloth from the face of the corpse. In the spirit of mystery, anyone who partakes for as long as FXC must be a willing and energetic participant.

    The youtube page for bad robot has a video that extends the crime sceme images:

    By the way, it also says "it's all true, everything he wrote."

    The video also shows a man coming from the sea and says "he's reborn". I'm thinking there's a supernatural element to the ship and the man who appears in the first chapter, but I haven't read the whole thing so I can't expound on that theory yet. I think the whole "Straka lives" seems impossible if he were normal but totally possible if he were a supernatural being that reforms himself (which I think is one of the "wacky" theories? and totally a JJ Abrams thing, if I might add).

  4. Kristin - I like that idea of the ship (Abrams loves making up mythologies). Perhaps after Havana, Straka ran off to his ship and has been hiding out there for a safer time, or the correct time for his next move.

    1. RIght - there's the possibility that he has been on the ship since 1946. As we know, not only does time moves differently on the ship, but each time he goes back time seems to move more quickly onboard (i.e. each time he returns to shore time seems to have jumped more) - do we know the years of all the times he comes ashore? If so, we could determine how much time has passed between each iteration, and if there is a pattern. From there, one could figure out in what years (post-46) he would return to shore if he were still alive.
      Apologies if this has been discussed already - just found this site!

    2. I think we can maybe place his arrival in B----- in 1906. The list of places/dates on the photos from p.262 are all from sightings of Vevoda agents when bombings, massacres, etc. happened, so I think that's the tie to the B----- factory bombing.

      When he sees Sola in B-----, S. thinks she looks 5 years older than when he saw her last (p.96), so that would place him in the Old Quarter in 1901.

      After B-----, he lands in El H-----, which I believe is Tripoli at the time of the invasion in 1911.

      I'm not sure about the timing of Obsidian Island, the Territory or the Winter City, but there are some clues as to the timeframe when he gets to Vevoda's estate. The naphtha lighter on p.453 and the fire blankets and fire extinguishing aerosol powder on p.425 seem to hint at maybe the 1940's? I've been trying to narrow it down a little more.

      So - 1901 Old Quarter, 1906 B-----, 1911 El H-----/Tripoli ... 194x Vevoda Estate?

    3. The first 3 are possibly each five years apart. I noticed a while ago that there are a LOT of multiples of five mentioned in the book. Might be something - who knows?

  5. We have a winner, I've updated the post with the details.


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