The Smithy Code

April 26, 2006 | 2 books mentioned 2 2 min read

Can you handle another Da Vinci Code story? It has just emerged that Justice Peter Smith, who presided over the Dan Brown plagiarism trial, embedded a secret code within his ruling that refers to both The Da Vinci Code and Holy Blood, Holy Grail, whose authors sued Brown. In the first 13 and a half pages of the 71-page ruling, a handful of italicized, boldfaced letters are embedded, that when combined, spell out “Smithy Code.” But there’s more. A further jumble of italicized, boldfaced letters have yet to be deciphered. In her New York Times piece, Sarah Lyall describes a series of “brief and ultimately frustrating e-mail messages” in which she tried to pry the solution from Smith, to no avail. She also relates Smith’s dismay when, for the first couple of weeks after the ruling was released, no one noticed the secrets that lay within:

It has been nearly three weeks since he handed down the ruling. Probably disappointingly for Justice Smith, nobody seemed to notice anything unusual about it when it was first released. But he alluded to the possibility that there was something more soon afterward as a throwaway line in an e-mail exchange with a reporter for The New York Times, saying, “Did you find the coded message in the judgment?”

It’s silly, but I admire Justice Smith for his cleverness. After all, a blogger can’t exactly look down on someone for grasping at his 15 minutes of fame.

Update: From the comments, a mysterious anonymous commenter has provided us with the code. It starts out “smithy code” and from there, the jumble of letters is “Jaeiextostgpsacgreamqwfkadpmqzv”.

Anybody want to take a stab at it?

Update 2: Judge Smith has released some clues.

  1. Holy Blood, Holy Grail refers to the Dossiers Secret and the hidden message. It is revealed by spotting that certain random letters appear to be different in form from the majority of the text.
  2. Applying that to the judgment reveals the following highlighted letters: SMITHYCODEJAEIEXTOSTGPSACGREAMQWFKADPMQZVZ (the first part reveals there is a message)

  3. There is no significance to the placing of the letters in the text.
  4. Da Vinci Code also uses codes. The most liked one is apparently a numerical one (p.255 The Fibonacci Sequence). In the book it is changed.
  5. The correct sequence up to 21 is: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21
  6. The code is created by letter substitution.
  7. The letter change is creating by applying the Fibonacci Sequence numbers above letter by letter.
  8. The relevant number shows where you start for each letter to substitute. Thus the first letter is identified by rewriting the alphabet stating at the first letter in the alphabet ie for the first letter A A. The second letter is also started at 1; the third at 3. When 21 is reached the code reverts back to 1 etc and repeats that until all the letters are substituted. A message ought then be revealed (there is a deliberate typo to create further confusion). The message reveals a significant but now overlooked event that occurred virtually 100 years to the day of the start of the trial.
  9. The preparation of the Code took about 40 minutes and its insertion another 40 minutes or so.
  10. I hate crosswords and do not do Sudoku as I do not have the patience.

Update 3: The Smithy Code has been cracked.

created and edits The Millions. He is co-editor of the collection of essays The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books, called "funny, poignant, relentlessly thought-provoking" by The Atlantic. He and his family live in New Jersey. If you'd like to correspond, please don't hesitate to email.

2 comments:

  1. It's probably a polyalphabetic or Vigenere code with 'smithycode' as the key. If so, someone should crack it pretty quickly.

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