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The Code: Finale

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Matt Wieteska - Code Master Matt Wieteska - Code Master | 15:04 UK time, Monday, 12 September 2011

It took three months, countless hours of hard work, determination and teamwork, but it’s finally done. The Code has been cracked. On Saturday the 10th of September at historic Bletchley Park, our three finalists met and pitted their brains against a set of fiendish puzzles and each other to compete for our fabulous prize.


The three Code finalists on the train with Marcus du Sautoy

Dave McBryan, Helen Bennett and Pete Ryland with Marcus du Sautoy on the train to Bletchley Park

In a tense, two-hour battle of wits, Dave McBryan, Helen Bennett and Pete Ryland tackled three puzzles, which were all themed around the wartime activities of Bletchley Park. The first tasked the players to identify “cribs” within a set of encrypted messages - repeated letter strings in the plaintext which were essential in breaking the Enigma code.

Marcus du Sautoy with the three finalists filming introductions

Marcus du Sautoy with the three finalists filming introductions outside Block D at Bletchley Park

After doing so, the players were directed to Alan Turing’s office where they would collect their second puzzle: a set of replica Zygalski Sheets. These sheets were used by Polish code-breakers during the war to deduce the settings of the Enigma machines used to encrypt a message. However our versions held another secret: once the sheets were overlaid in a certain manner, the empty squares in the 26 x 26 grid spelled out a hidden message.

 
The three finalists chat before the competition starts

The three finalists in the mansion at Bletchley Park, chatting before the start of the competition.

The third puzzle, taken from the room which houses the Bombe machine used to crack the Enigma code, was based on the interpretation of decrypted intelligence. Given a map and some model soldiers, along with a series of decrypted orders, the players had to interpret the orders correctly and manoeuver the soldiers around the map as instructed. Upon doing so, the letters which identify each unit are rearranged to spell the final message: “I Cracked the Code”.

After a tense back-and-forth, Pete Ryland was the first to complete the three puzzles, becoming our champion codebreaker and claiming for himself the wonderful prize created by Bathsheba Grossman. Congratulations to him on a well-deserved victory.

Pete Ryland holding the Code prize

Pete Ryland outside the mansion at Bletchley Park, holding his prize.

 
We’ll be releasing the full video of the day’s proceedings soon - keep an eye out to see how it all unfolded!

 

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