To celebrate the publication of S., created by J.J. Abrams and written by Doug Dorst, Mulholland Books hosted a very special contest: if someone was able to decrypt the hidden message within the following poem, he or she could win lunch with Abrams and Dorst in New York City. Here were the instructions and the message:
Follow these lines, from first to last, and play fair—the bearded sailor sees all:
Midnight in the Old Quarter of a city where river meets sea. Hypnotic
fog caresses stone, glides over water, pulses in the dark beyond the harbor.
Never cry out when you’re shoved from the dock; never fear the sharks, the storms, the depths. This is the closest thing to freedom.
Swim like you still have power. Swim like they fear you’re able. Swim with
xebec swiftness through chop and wind, through blistering sun and frigid gloom.
Cherish each stroke, each breath, each gulp of ocean–the music of a mortally beautiful waltz, ever to ring through seas and skies.
Our winner, Kristopher Zgorski, not only decrypted the poem’s hidden meaning—STRAKA LIVES—but also presented his explanation as an acrostic spelling out the name of his book review blog, BOLO BOOKS:
Begin with the directions.
Obviously they provide cipher clues.
Luckily playfair was the encryption method and
Of course sailor Maelstrom was the keyword.
But digraphs came from the poem itself.
Oddly important, each lines first and last letters.
Kindly read vertically to
See who wishes to dine.
For more detail on how the playfair cipher can be applied to the poem above, visit the contest page. And thank you to all who entered! If you’d like to read how Kristopher’s lunch with Abrams and Dorst went, check out this post on BOLO BOOKS.