Category Archives: Puzzles

The FBI Needs YOU!

Are you a puzzle enthusiast? Like anagrams or cryptograms? Think you’ve got what it takes to crack a code? If you’re like my grandmother you complete the NY Times crossword AND the cryptogram in an hour. In PEN. If you’re like me, you love puzzles but that same crossword will sit on your desk, filled with erased PENCIL marks, and stare at you for an entire week, taunting and mocking with empty blocks, until the following Sunday when the answers come out. No joke – it’s sitting here right now.

If you love puzzles like me, the FBI is looking for your help!

Last week I received an email from the FBI (I am subscribed and receive updates on a few of their cases; you can subscribe too at ) about an open case that they have been working on:

“On June 30, 1999, sheriff’s officers in St. Louis, Missouri discovered the body of 41-year-old Ricky McCormick. He had been murdered and dumped in a field. The only clues regarding the homicide were two encrypted notes found in the victim’s pants pockets. The more than 30 lines of coded material use a maddening variety of letters, numbers, dashes, and parentheses. McCormick was a high school dropout, but he was able to read and write and was said to be “street smart.” According to members of his family, McCormick had used such encrypted notes since he was a boy, but apparently no one in his family knows how to decipher the codes, and it’s unknown whether anyone besides McCormick could translate his secret language. Investigators believe the notes in McCormick’s pockets were written up to three days before his death.” ( See actual notes above and below.

Here is the link for the case with the actual notes and description:

FBI open case

On the FBI website page are methods that the FBI cryptanalysts (what a great name for a profession) use to crack codes. And there is a link to Part I of the story, as well as a link to a page where you can leave your comments or theories.

I’ve been playing with the notes but it all looks like alphabet soup to me. Without an alphabet. I obviously lack the skills of a cryptanalyst, but who knows, YOU may recognize this code or be able to solve it! And maybe all this practice means that I will attempt the next crossword in PEN.