A Guilty Key

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SJTilden_of_NY.jpg

In the contentious presidential election of 1876, the campaign of Democrat Samuel Tilden sent many enciphered messages to its agents in contested states. Two years after the election, the New York Daily Tribune published some of the deciphered telegrams, showing that Tilden’s campaign had tried to bribe election officials to win the race. Here’s one of the telegrams:

https://archive.org/details/41748389078762

Since only 10 letters are used, it seems likely that the cipher refers to pairs of letters. So if each successive pair in the message is assigned to an arbitrary letter:

https://archive.org/details/41748389078762

… then we have a simple cryptogram that can be solved to give the message:

https://archive.org/details/41748389078762

Tilden’s campaign did the same thing with pairs of numbers. For example, this message:

https://archive.org/details/41748389078762

… turns out to mean:

https://archive.org/details/41748389078762

In 1879 the Tribune’s experts worked out the letter and number pairs that had corresponded to each letter of the alphabet:

https://archive.org/details/41748389078762

But it wasn’t until 1952 that cryptographer William F. Friedman reconstructed the table that the agents had used to remember this system:

https://archive.org/details/41748389078762

“It is amusing to note that the conspirators selected as their key a phrase quite in keeping with their attempted illegalities — HIS PAYMENT — for bribery seems to have played a considerable part in that campaign.”

(From Beaird Glover, Secret Ciphers of the 1876 Presidential Election, 1991.)

Podcast Episode 145: The Pied Piper of Saipan

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Guy Gabaldon was an untested Marine when he landed on the Pacific island of Saipan during World War II. But he decided to fight the war on his own terms, venturing alone into enemy territory and trying to convince Japanese soldiers to surrender voluntarily. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow Gabaldon’s dangerous crusade and learn its surprising results.

We’ll also examine Wonder Woman’s erotic origins and puzzle over an elusive murderer.

Intro:

In 1955 Dodge introduced the La Femme — “the first car ever exclusively designed for the woman motorist.”

In 1911 a 16-year-old English girl died when a gust of wind carried her 20 feet into the air.

Sources for our feature on Guy Gabaldon:

Guy Gabaldon, Saipan: Suicide Island, 1990.

“Diminutive WWII Hero Gabaldon Dies at 80,” Associated Press, Sept. 4, 2006.

Richard Goldstein, “Guy Gabaldon, 80, Hero of Battle of Saipan, Dies,” New York Times, Sept. 4, 2006.

Jocelyn Y. Stewart, “Guy Gabaldon, 80; WWII Hero Captured 1,000 Japanese on Saipan,” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 6, 2006.

“Guy Gabaldon,” Latino Americans, PBS, Sept. 24, 2013.

Richard Gonzalez, “Filmmaker: Pacific War Hero Deserved Higher Honor,” Morning Edition, National Public Radio, April 25, 2008.

“Guy Gabaldon: An Interview and Discussion,” War Times Journal (accessed Feb. 26, 2017).

“Milestones,” Time 168:12, Sept. 18, 2006.

Gregg K. Kakesako, “‘Pied Piper’ Returning to Saipan,” Honolulu Star Bulletin, June 6, 2004.

“Guy Gabaldon,” University of Texas Oral History Project (accessed Feb. 26, 2017).

Gabaldon receives the Navy Cross, 1960:

Listener mail:

Wikipedia, “William Moulton Marston” (accessed March 9, 2017).

“The Man Behind Wonder Woman Was Inspired By Both Suffragists And Centerfolds,” NPR Books, October 27, 2014.

Jill Lepore, “The Surprising Origin Story of Wonder Woman,” Smithsonian Magazine, October 2014.

Katha Pollitt, “Wonder Woman’s Kinky Feminist Roots,” Atlantic, November 2014.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Steven Jones (thanks also to Hanno Zulla). Here are three corroborating links (warning — these spoil the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, and we’ve set up some rewards to help thank you for your support.

You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

Gratitude

guerrero clock case

During the Great Depression, Texas carpenter Ernesto Guerrero could not find work, and his family received boxes of food through Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal assistance program. To show her appreciation, Ernesto’s daughter Ernestine spent a year developing her skills with a coping saw and another year carving this fretwork clock case from the leftover grocery boxes.

She sent it to Roosevelt in 1937. “This is the best I have ever done in my life,” she wrote. “I know that you have many pretty things, but please accept and keep this piece of work from a poor girl that doesn’t have anything, also to show you how much we admire you … as a man of great ideals and a big heart toward humanity.”

FDR put the case on display, first at his family estate in Hyde Park, N.Y., and later as part of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library Museum Collection — the first presidential library.

(From Robert Cohen, Dear Mrs. Roosevelt: Letters from Children of the Great Depression, 2003.)

Cross-Country Golf

https://pixabay.com/en/the-shoals-course-muscle-shoals-1613273/

In 1953, 150 golfers participated in a “Golden Ball” competition in which they teed off at the first tee at Cill Dara Golf Club in Kildare, Ireland, and holed out at the 18th hole at the Curragh, about 5 miles away. A prize of £1 million was offered for a hole in one, which would have been well earned, as the distance is 8,800 yards.

In The Book of Irish Golf, John Redmond writes, “The hazards to be negotiated included the main Dublin-Cork railway line and road, the Curragh racecourse, Irish army tank ranges and about 150 telephone lines.” The trophy went to renowned long hitter Joe Carr, who covered the distance in 52 shots.

In 1920, Rupert Lewis and W. Raymond Thomas played over 20 miles of countryside from Radyr Golf Club near Cardiff, Wales, to Southerndown Golf Club at Ewenny, near Bridgend. Most onlookers guessed that they’d need at least 1,000 strokes, but they completed the journey in 608, playing alternate strokes. “At one time, the pair had to wade knee deep to ford a river,” writes Jonathan Rice in Curiosities of Golf, “but dried out by jumping a hedge while being chased by a bull.”

Inspired by the P.G. Wodehouse story “The Long Hole,” eight members of the Barnet Rugby Hackers Golf Club played 23 miles across Ayrshire in 1968, from Prestwick, the site of the first Open Championship, to Turnberry, the site of that year’s event. They lost “only” 50 or 60 balls while negotiating “a holiday camp, a dockyard, a stately home, a croquet lawn, several roofs, the River Doon,” and another bull, for a final score of 375 to 385.

N.T.P. Murphy gives a few more in A Wodehouse Handbook: In 1913 two golfers played 26 miles from Linton Park near Maidstone to Littleston-on-Sea in 1,087 strokes; Doe Graham played literally across country in 1927, from Florida’s Mobile Golf Club to Hollywood, a distance of 6,160,000 yards (I don’t have the final score, but he’d taken 20,000 strokes by the time he reached Beaumont, Texas); and Floyd Rood played from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1963 in 114,737 shots.

The object of golf, observed Punch in 1892, “is to put a very small ball into a very tiny and remotely distant hole, with engines singularly ill adapted for the purpose.”

03/25/2017 UPDATE: Reader Shane Bennett notes that Australia’s Nullarbor Links claims to be the world’s longest golf course — players drive from Ceduna in South Australia to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, stopping periodically to play a hole. Par for the 18 holes is only 73, but the course stretches over 1,365 kilometers. (Thanks, Shane.)

Ships That Pass

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Poe.jpg

For four months in 1840 Edgar Allan Poe conducted a puzzle column for the Philadelphia newspaper Alexander’s Daily Messenger. In that time he defied his readers to send him a cryptogram that he could not solve, and at the end of his tenure he declared himself undefeated. One of the later challenges came from 17-year-old Schuyler Colfax of New Carlisle, Iowa, who would grow up to become vice president of the United States:

Dear Sir — As you have in your Weekly Messenger defied the world to puzzle you by substituting arbitrary signs, figures, etc. for the different letters of the alphabet, I have resolved to try my utmost to corner you and your system together, and have manufactured the two odd looking subjects which accompany this as avant couriers. … If you succeed in solving the accompanying, I will, of course, as you request, acknowledge it publicly to my friends.

Poe responded: “We have only time, this week, to look at the first and longest cypher — the unriddling of which, however, will no doubt fully satisfy Mr. Colfax that we have not been playing possum with our readers.” Here’s Colfax’s cryptogram:

8n()58†d w!0 b† !x6n†z k65 !nz k65,8l†n b)x 8nd)Pxd !zw8x 6k n6 36w-†nd!x86n;

x=†0 z†,5!z† x=† w8nz 8n 8xd 62n †dx††w !nz k653† 8x x6 5†36l†5 8xd P†l†P b0 5†l†n,†.

()n8)d

What’s the solution?

Click for Answer

Matched Set

It’s well known that the sum of the cubes of the first n integers equals the square of their sum:

13 + 23 + 33 + 43 + 53 = (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5)2

California State University mathematician David Pagni found another case in which the sum of cubes equals the square of a sum. Take any whole number:

28

List all its divisors:

1, 2, 4, 7, 14, 28

Count the number of divisors of each of these:

1 has 1 divisor
2 has 2 divisors
4 has 3 divisors
7 has 2 divisors
14 has 4 divisors
28 has 6 divisors

Now cube these numbers and sum the cubes:

13 + 23 + 33 + 23 + 43 + 63 = 324

And sum the same set of numbers and square the sum:

(1 + 2 + 3 + 2 + 4 + 6)2 = 324

The two results are the same: The sum of the cubes of these numbers will always equal the square of their sum.

(David Pagni, “An Interesting Number Fact,” Mathematical Gazette 82:494 [July 1998], 271-273.)

03/10/2017 UPDATE: Reader Kurt Bachtold points out that this was originally discovered by Joseph Liouville, a fact that I should have recalled, as I’d written about it in 2011. (Thanks, Kurt.)

Shame and Fortune

http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1503504&partId=1&searchText=cruikshank+hanging&page=3

In 1818 caricaturist George Cruikshank saw several people hanging from a gibbet near Newgate Prison in London and learned to his horror that they had been executed for passing forged one-pound notes — at the time, doing so even unknowingly was punishable by death or transportation.

The fact that a poor woman could be put to death for such a minor offence had a great effect upon me — and I at that moment determined, if possible, to put a stop to this shocking destruction of life for merely obtaining a few shillings by fraud; and well knowing the habits of the low class of society in London, I felt quite sure that in very many cases the rascals who forged the notes induced these poor ignorant women to go into the gin-shops to ‘get something to drink,’ and thus pass the notes, and hand them the change.

He went home and dashed off this sketch, which was then printed on the post paper used by the bank, so that it would resemble counterfeit currency. “The general effect was of a counterfeit, but closer examination revealed that every element of the official design had been replaced by a savage parody,” writes Robert L. Patten in George Cruikshank’s Life, Times, and Art. The seal shows Britannia eating her children, the stamp depicts 12 tiny heads in prison, and the pound sign is a coiled hangman’s rope.

The protest created a sensation, and remedial legislation was passed. Cruikshank’s satire, noted the Examiner, “ought to make the hearts of the Bank Directors ache at the sight.”

Warming Up

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Chapter 1 of Jack and Alice, a novel written by Jane Austen when she was 13 years old:

Mr. Johnson was once upon a time about 53; in a twelvemonth afterwards he was 54, which so much delighted him that he was determined to celebrate his next Birth day by giving a Masquerade to his Children and Freinds. Accordingly on the Day he attained his 55th year tickets were dispatched to all his Neighbours to that purpose. His acquaintance indeed in that part of the World were not very numerous as they consisted only of Lady Williams, Mr and Mrs Jones, Charles Adams and the 3 Miss Simpsons, who composed the neighbourhood of Pammydiddle and formed the Masquerade.

Before I proceed to give an account of the Evening, it will be proper to describe to my reader, the persons and Characters of the party introduced to his acquaintance.

Mr and Mrs Jones were both rather tall and very passionate, but were in other respects, good tempered, wellbehaved People. Charles Adams was an amiable, accomplished and bewitching young Man; of so dazzling a Beauty that none but Eagles could look him in the Face.

Miss Simpson was pleasing in her person, in ther Manners and in her Disposition; an unbounded ambition was her only fault. Her second sister Sukey was Envious, Spitefull and Malicious. Her person was short, fat and disagreeable. Cecilia (the youngest) was perfectly handsome but too affected to be pleasing.

In Lady Williams every virtue met. She was a widow with a handsome Jointure and the remains of a very handsome face. Tho’ Benevolent and Candid, she was Generous and sincere; Tho’ Pious and Good, she was Religious and amiable, and Tho’ Elegant and Agreable, she was Polished and Entertaining.

The Johnsons were a family of Love, and though a little addicted to the Bottle and the Dice, had many good Qualities.

Such was the party assembled in the elegant Drawing Room of Johnson Court, amongst which the pleasing figure of a Sultana was the most remarkable of the female Masks. Of the Males a Mask representing the Sun, was the most universally admired. The Beams that darted from his Eyes were like those of that glorious Luminary tho’ infinitely Superior. So strong were they that no one dared venture within half a mile of them; he had therefore the best part of the Room to himself, its size not amounting to more than 3 quarters of a mile in length & half a one in breadth. The Gentleman at last finding the feirceness of his beams to be very inconvenient to the concourse by obliging them to croud together in one corner of the room, half shut his eyes by which means, the Company discovered him to be Charles Adams in his plain green Coat, without any mask at all.

When their astonishment was a little subsided their attention was attracted by 2 Domino’s who advanced in a horrible Passion; they were both very tall, but seemed in other respects to have many good qualities. ‘These said the witty Charles, these are Mr and Mrs Jones.’ and so indeed they were.

No one could imagine who was the Sultana! Till at length on her addressing a beautifull Flora who was reclining in a studied attitude on a couch, with ‘Oh Cecilia, I wish I was really what I pretend to be’, she was discovered by the never failing genius of Charles Adams, to be the elegant but ambitious Caroline Simpson, and the person to whom she addressed herself, he rightly imagined to be her lovely but affected sister Cecilia.

The Company now advanced to a Gaming Table where sat 3 Dominos (each with a bottle in their hand) deeply engaged, but a female in the character of Virtue fled with hasty footsteps from the shocking scene, whilst a little fat woman representing Envy, sate alternately on the foreheads of the 3 Gamesters. Charles Adams was still as bright as ever; he soon discovered the party at play to be the 3 Johnsons, Envy to be Sukey Simpson and Virtue to be Lady Williams.

The Masks were then all removed and the Company retired to another room, to partake of elegant and well managed Entertainment, after which the bottle being pretty briskly pushed about by the 3 Johnsons, the whole party not excepting even Virtue were carried home, Dead Drunk.

“Jane Austen was born before those bonds which (we are told) protected women from truth, were burst by the Brontës or elaborately untied by George Eliot,” wrote G.K. Chesterton. “Yet the fact remains that Jane Austen knew more about men than either of them. Jane Austen may have been protected from truth: but it was precious little of truth that was protected from her.”