## Wednesday, July 27, 2016

### Brach Cipher Rabbit Hole

This relates to what is (likely) the last clue for #cipherhunt

Clue says "written in the trees", combined with the "where it all began" leads many to think the first clue may have something hidden in the area where there are trees (see below):

The first thing I thought it could be was a branch cipher, but the traditional rules for a branch cipher require at least one branch on each side of the center.

I still wanted to continue down the line of assuming each tree was a character and the branches (through some combination of placement [left vs right and order], count [number of limbs], and/or direction [pointing up or down]) indicated a certain character.

Assuming each tree is a character, they only way a cryptogram solver will work on such a short cryptogram is if at least a couple of the letters are the same (there are way too many solutions for the cryptogram ABCDEFGHI [and ABCDE FGHI, if you count the gap in the middle as a space), and on the flip side, there needs to be enough diversity (AAABABBBA or any other combination of A and B is NOT a very meaningful cryptogram).

Idea 1: Use the normal rules for branch ciphers to see which trees are similar characters. Tree 1 would be 0-2 (zero branches on the left, two on the right); for the whole thing: {0-2, 1-1, 0-1, 1-1,2-1,1-1,2-1,1-0,2-0,}  or when simplified to normal cryptogram: ABCBDBDEF, which is not a useful one word cipher because no 9-letter-words (according to quipqiup) match that pattern, conversely, ABCBD BDEF (with a space to match the gap in the trees) results in way to many possible results (including my favorite: "COLON ONES").

Idea 2: same as 1, but count number of upward pointing and downward pointing branches. {2-0,0-2,0-1,2-0,1-2,1-1,3-0,0-1,2-0} or ABCADEFCA. This results in some interesting, but likely not meaningful results:

 1 -2.529 EXTENUATE 2 -2.793 ERNESTINE 3 -4.104 SWASTIKAS

That last one is a little bit concerning...  With the space added, (ABCAD EFCA), we again get too many possibilities, including my favorite "THATS BOAT"

After trying some other ideas, I have come up empty. Giving up for now on finding a cipher in the trees. If there is a code where each tree is a character, then it looks like each tree is a different character, meaning it can't be solved by normal cryptogram solving and will need an external key. Hopefully this post might inspire someone to try a different, more successful approach.

Update: Since no one else has found anything in the past 14 hours, thought I would revisit this with a slight difference: treat Bill as a tree. He's obviously between the 5th and 6th tree, and has one branch arm) out. So we will just add a character into the cryptogram we made for ideas 1 and 2 and see if we get a meaningful 10 letter word.

Idea 1 becomes ABCBDEBDEF, and  quipqiup tells me that the only word it could be is "CHIHUAHUAS"

Idea 2 becomes  ABCADCEFCA which seems to have no possible one-word matches.