How To Solve Cryptogram Puzzles

Cryptograms are popular puzzles found in many newspapers and books.

They are short phrases or quotes encrypted using a substitution cipher. Each letter of the phrase is substituted for another letter, number, or symbol. To solve each puzzle, uncover the original phrase by figuring out the letter substitutions using the English language conventions and sometimes educated guesses. The encoding is different for each puzzle.

For example, the letter "I" in a phrase may be substituted with "E" in the puzzle. In this case, all instances of "I" will be written as "E" in the puzzle.


In this cryptogram puzzle, each letter has been replaced by another.

E K V Z S, E A V M, E K G I T N S X S H.

There are several techniques used to decipher this puzzle. You must figure out what letters are substituted to crack the code and reveal the message. In this example, a good guess for the "E" would be "I." As you solve the puzzle, you end up with the famous quote by Julius Caesar, "I came, I saw, I conquered."

Use logic and your knowledge of the letters and words to crack the cipher and work out the message by figuring out which letter represents which.

Common Techniques

  • Look for common letters: See what letters appear most often in the puzzle and compare them to the list of most common letters in the language. For example, the most common letters in English are E, T, A, O, N, I, and S.

  • Solve the short words: Look for the short words containing one to three letters. Use your language knowledge to compare these to the most common one, two and three-letter words. The most common one-letter words are A, and I. English's most common two-letter words are OF, TO, IN, IS, AS, HE, BE, BY, ON, OR, and AT. English's most common three-letter words are AND, THE, FOR, HIS, NOT, BUT, YOU, ARE, HER, and HAD.

  • Spot repeated letters: Look for pairs of repeated letters. Only a few letters in the language are repeated. These are usually DD, EE, FF, GG, LL, MM, NN, OO, PP, RR, SS, TT, and ZZ.

  • Look for Digraphs: Look for two-letter combinations most common in the language. The most common digraphs in English are TH, HE, AN, IN, ER, RE, ES, ON, EA, and TI.

  • Look for patterns: Solving cryptograms often means taking educated guesses and looking for patterns in the letters and words. Look for repeating words such as in the example above from Julius Caesar.

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