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Jul 1, 2010 (Vol. 30, No. 13)

GEN's Electroporation Challenge Decoded

Cleveland Couple Uses Pattern-Recognition and Problem-Solving Skills to Crack Latest Cryptogram

  • Important Skills

    Click Image To Enlarge +
    Jodi Bubenik (center) and her husband solved the most challenging cryptogram yet presented. Jodi was subsequently lauded as a "Cellebrity" by Bio-Rad, sponsor of the contest.

    When asked which skills might have helped them solve the Cryptogram Challenge, Jodi told GEN that she has long been addicted to crossword puzzles. “I’ve always been interested in contests and puzzles that involve pattern recognition,” she said.

    “Mathematics is about problem-solving and trying to find hidden patterns behind information,” added Peter. “This [the Cryptogram Challenge] is the kind of thing that I like to do.”

    In recounting how they went about tackling the cryptogram, Jodi said Clue 1, which referred to the Bio-Rad website, and Clue 2 (“Cell transparencies were important”) got the ball rolling. They next printed out copies of 8 by 12 grids to be able “to scribble around.”

    They then focused on Clue 8, which led to a website that displayed a map of Paris. “When you look at that page, it seemed most reasonable that it was the map itself that was the information. It showed the suburbs and neighborhoods of Paris mapped out in numerical order, which forms a spiral from the center out. So we took that to mean that this puzzle was also going to be spiraling out from the center,” explained Jodi.

    Using that insight, Jodi and Peter went back to the cryptogram grid. “In the center, there were four squares that could equally be claimed to be the middle of the puzzle. Then we looked at the cell transparencies.

    “While adding them up by hand, a pattern emerged that three of the four cells would total 96,” noted Jodi. “That happened over and over in a heavy concentration in the center of the puzzle. But it never occurred in the cells around the edge.”

    The Bubeniks then decided that number 96 was important as it suggested where the actual letters of the puzzle might be found.  “In hindsight, we were able to use Image A to tell us that,” continued Jodi.

    They then referred to the contest rules: five words are in the answer and there is only one space between words, starting at the end and spiraling toward the middle. They next figured out how long each of the words was and the location of the starting point.

    “There was one word that was 10 letters long,” said Jodi.  Since 10 letters isn’t that common, we were able to use Clue 1 to go back to the Bio-Rad web page and scan for 10-letter words. The word “expression” jumped right out at us. So we plugged that in and tried to see if it would work.

    “Then, since there are some duplicate letters in the word ‘expression’ we tried to determine if those cells matched. That’s when Peter was able to see that the same three or four cells that were important to determine the number 96 were also the pattern for the rest of the letters. That allowed us to just write them out and solve the rest of the phrase.”

    “Drs. Bubenik solved the most Challenging Cryptogram yet presented,” according to Dr. Johnson. “I toast their acumen and hope that they are ready to take on the cell-counting cryptogram that comes next.”

    Stay tuned for our next Cryptogram Challenge: Cell Counting, which will launch on July 12. 

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