Patterico's Pontifications


More on the Da Vinci Code Decision Code

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:55 am

The post below about the message hidden in a court decision about the Da Vinci Code has been updated several times. The current status of the code to break is this:


It appears commonly accepted that “SMITHYCODE” means the code of Smith, the judge, which means that the portion that needs to be solved is this:


So what does it mean?

Power Line readers proved the Rathergate documents were fake in a day. You guys aren’t going to get showed up by them, are you?

The judge has said that this line from the decision is important: “The key to solving the conundrum posed by this judgment is in reading HBHG and DVC.” HBHG is “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” whose authors were suing Dan Brown, author of DVC (The Da Vinci Code).

Now you know what I know. Don’t embarrass me.

UPDATE: More hints in this New York Times article about the embedded code. (Via Howard Bashman.)

[I]n a series of brief and ultimately frustrating e-mail messages during the last couple of days, the judge provided a series of intriguing clues. First he said that the different ways codes are broken in “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” and “The Da Vinci Code” should be considered. The idea for the italicized letters, he suggested, came from “Holy Blood, Holy Grail.”

He then suggested moving on to “The Da Vinci Code” and applying one of the code-breaking methods used by its protagonists to solve the mystery of the jumbled letters. “Think mathematics,” he wrote at one point. He drew attention to his own entry in Who’s Who — in which he lists an interest in the history of Jackie Fisher, an admiral who modernized the British Navy, a possible reason that his e-mail address contains the word “pescator,” implying fisherman — and said that the date 2006 was significant.

He even mentioned a page number in “The Da Vinci Code” by way of trying to help. But he declined to go further, saying that “anything else gives it on a plate.”

Yeah, thanks for telling us that page number, Ms. New York Times reporter. You just want to be the first to solve it!

UPDATE: She wasn’t. Someone at the London Times was. Via a commenter comes a link to the story setting forth the solution.

UPDATE x2: This judge is a careless moron who 1) encoded a boring and meaningless message; 2) imported two typos in the space of 31 letters; and 3) bollixed up the code. Details here.

I apologize for wasting your time with what turned out to be utter nonsense.

27 Responses to “More on the Da Vinci Code Decision Code”

  1. Crap! It says, “Make sure to drink your Ovaltine”!

    Dan Collins (208fbe)

  2. The only information that turns up for John “Jackie” Fisher related to cryptology involves ‘ULTRA’ and the fact that the Allies were reading Enigma-encoded material.

    A ‘hand’ encoding method circulating in the British Navy at the time was the ‘Playfair’ cypher.

    The only technique for decrypting a Playfair cypher that I know of is a dictionary attack. I’d add ‘pescator’, ‘Magdalene’, and all the other relevant names to the dictionary before an attempt to crack this.

    Al (2e2489)

  3. Okay, so the big question here: is this coded message law, or dictum? And how should we decide?

    See Dubya (d2a16e)

  4. It could be a simple Vigenere Cipher or other simple alphabet cipher (Ceaser Cipher), which involves basic mathematics. I don’t expect a judge to be able to do much more complicated (such as the modulo based forms of encryption). Who knows, maybe a “decoder ring” from a box of “lucky charms” 😉

    galletador (b58eba)

  5. It’s a code?

    What kind of twisted ass outrage is that?

    Reading this vile pile of crap, I find a whole lot more to retch about than codes,

    Like: where the hell does a judge, a publicly-funded position that takes A LOT of time and commitment, get the time to write like this?

    Is any public time or computing resource devoted to this POS decision?

    Who the hell writes in code? This is a NOVEL (and movie) for heaven’s sake. More than half the crap published in this sewer pipe is worse.

    I am writing a letter to this judge’s bosses demanding an investigation into this flagrant abuse of MY taxpayer money. Getting your Jockeys twisted up your anus on the public dime is not my idea of what I hired you to do, Judge Smith.

    BTW, Zuma Hans’ “Comment by Zuma Hans” (not his sock puppet) — 4/24/2006 @ 8:17 am, from which this comment was adapted, was the most wonderful, deep, insightful, brilliant thing posted here, ev-er!

    Zuma Hans' sock puppet (ea88e8)

  6. ZHSP, that was simply the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read.

    Zuma Hans' sock puppet's sock puppet (5664e1)

  7. fnord.

    Angry Clam (fa7fff)

  8. Sorry if some of this is repeat. The judge also studies the Titanic, and he’s 53 (close in number to paragraph 52). The letter J has relevance, possibly as Justice, Jesus or judgment. Excerpts from the Times Online UK:

    The judge, who is 53 and lists some of his hobbies as reading military history and the sinking of the Titanic, said that paragraph 52 of his judgment would give readers a clue to the puzzle.

    In Mr Justice Smiths coded judgment, the first nine digits obviously spell Smith Code: s,m,i,t,h,c,o,d,e,J,a,e,i,e,x,t,o,s,t,p,s,a,c,g,r,e,a,m,q,w,f,k,a,d,p,m,q,z.

    Beyond that is anyones guess.

    […] In dismissing the claims by the authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, Mr Justice Smith said that HBHG did not have a central theme which was one of their main claims.


    Concealed in the earlier pages of the 71-page judgment are at least 38 single letters printed in bold italics. One page contains a total of eight single bold italics.

    It is not clear whether the page or the paragraph that the italicised letters are hidden in is relevant to breaking the cypher.

    The only upper case letter is a J. The judgment includes other italicised words, often quoted speech or names of texts, which have not been included in this list.

    The first letters on page 5, if they are not an anagram, spell out the words smith code J. The judge is Mr Justice Peter Smith. Or maybe the J stands for Jesus or judgment.

    Page 5 s m i t h c o d e J

    Page 6 a e i e x

    Page 7 t o s t

    Page 8 p s a

    Page 9 c g r e a

    Page 10 m q w f

    Page 11 k a

    Page 12 d p m q

    Page 13 z,,2-2153798,00.html

    [This article misses two letters: a “g” and a “v.” — P]

    Vermont Neighbor (a9ae2c)

  9. From the book, near or around chapter 52. The exchange of money and mention of a briefcase are legal-esque. (Chapter 52 in the book may have nothing to do with paragraph 52 of the judgment, it’s just interesting… and the judge is 53.)

    “Chapters 50, 51, 52, 53, 54 Summary”

    Bishop Aringarosa leaves the Castel Gandolfo with a heavy briefcase containing bonds equaling twenty million euros. He plans to exchange them with the Teacher. He begins to worry why he has not heard from the Teacher who will contact him; the bishop cannot contact the Teacher. He hopes that he has not missed the call du…..

    Vermont Neighbor (a9ae2c)

  10. By the way, there was no ancient goddess Pisces. Dan Brown made that up. Pisces was a mythological symbol consisting of two fish, representing Aphrodite and her son Eros.

    Just in case you read the book and were misinformed.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  11. This looks like a one-time code. The italicized letters could be any reference to other letters or even words on one or several pages of any book. Impossible to decode unless you know what the reference is. Since the judge said DVC or HBHG, it’s likely those two. I tried his opinion, just in case, but got nowhere. I did not spend a lot of time on it though. Considering that it’s a practical joke on the part of the judge … .

    nk (bfc26a)

  12. Dan Brown made up most of the book! It’s fiction!

    His second book, “Angels and Demons” was actually better I thought.

    Rightwingsparkle (4adf48)

  13. The London Times has printed the solution. My site has the link.

    Mike Antonucci (93119b)

  14. Sorry, I shouldn’t have added to the suspense. The answer is:

    Jackie Fisher who are you Dreadnought

    The Times story has the explanation.

    Mike Antonucci (93119b)

  15. What the heck? This was posted on April 27, not the 1st right?

    We have a sitting judge who is writing secret coded puzzles in his written decisions on cases?!?

    Impeach this goofball! This isn’t summer camp. Isn’t Patterico an attorney? You don’t find this completely inappropriate?

    MJohnson (8ab119)

  16. Why would I?

    Patterico (156eed)

  17. Yup. I updated the post after Mike Antonucci provided the link.

    But they had secret hints that we didn’t have. So I don’t feel bad.

    Patterico (156eed)

  18. Before anyone starts circulating petitions to impeach Judge Smith, keep in mind that he’s a British judge, not American. No American tax dollars were harmed in the creation of his little code.

    And anyway, at least he’s not legislating from the bench. I’d rather have someone inserting some levity into things, especially a case as silly as the authors of one work of pseudo-historical drivel suing the author of another work of pseudo-historical drivel.

    Roy Jacobsen (47947d)

  19. Please take no offense, Patterico, but I cannot understand your fascination with this topic. Hope you figure it out, but I think in the end it’ll be akin to the old decoder ring that helps reveal the secret message, “Drink more Ovaltine.”


    Jal (71415b)

  20. I wrote a small Vigenere encypt / decrypt C# program for a class. Ran decrypt with ‘SMITH’, ‘SMITHY’, and ‘SMITHYCODE’ as keys – no go.

    AJackson (7b45f4)

  21. Please take no offense, Patterico, but I cannot understand your fascination with this topic.

    Puzzles are fun.

    Patterico (156eed)

  22. Re #16 (MJ)
    I found this earlier today and it explains a little on the humor and reasoning.

    From South Africa News24:

    British lawyer Dan Tench said he noticed the code when he spotted the striking italicised script in an online copy of the judgment.

    ‘He was just having a bit of fun’

    “To encrypt a message in this manner, in a High Court judgment no less? It’s out there,” Tench said. “I think he was getting into the spirit of the thing. It doesn’t take away from the validity of the judgment. He was just having a bit of fun.”

    Smith was arguably the highlight of the trial, with his sharp questions and witty observations making the sometimes dry testimony more lively. […]

    “I think it has caught the particular imagination of Americans,” Tench said. “To have a British, staid High Court judge encrypt a judgment in this manner, it’s jolly fun.”,,2-1225-1243_1923375,00.html

    Vermont Neighbor (a9ae2c)

  23. Puzzles are fun.

    But this particular one wasn’t. It was lame.

    Patterico (156eed)

  24. […] I am sorry I wasted all of your time with this Da Vinci Code decision code nonsense. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Da Vinci Code Decision Code: A Lame Waste of Time (421107)

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