So You Think You’re Good At Solving Puzzles?

If you like to solve puzzles, go to the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, VA. In the courtyard sits Kryptos, a sculpture with a copper scroll containing an encoded message of punched letters in four parts. In its almost 30-year history, three parts have been decoded. But the fourth part is still a mystery.

Knowing how many people like puzzles, decoding this has become an obsession for thousands of people around the world ( There have been systems established to allow people to check their solution attempts; the most recent is an email-based process with a fee of $50.

To aid in solving the first three parts, sculptor Jim Sanborn has given clues twice before. Now he has provided one final clue: NORTHEAST, leading to speculation that he would like to see this solved in his lifetime (he is now 74 years old). If it isn’t, the solution will be put up for auction, with the proceeds going to funding climate science. Or perhaps the auction will be held while he is still living, it’s entirely up to him.

In any event, if you like a challenge, maybe you can get credit for decoding that final piece of this very complicated puzzle.

To read the solved parts and the sculpture’s background, see “This Sculpture Holds a Decades-Old C.I.A. Mystery. And Now, Another Clue,” By John Schwartz and Jonathan Corum (

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