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The Alan Turing
Cryptography Competition.
edition 2017
You are reading the website of the 2017 edition of the competition, which ended on Saturday 29th April at 11:59 pm.

Mike and Ellie will return for a new adventure next year!

The website for that new edition, to start in January 2018, appears in December here. If you would like to receive a reminder around that time by email please look here. For any particular enquiries you can contact us on cryptography_competition@manchester.ac.uk.
The Tale of the



Is released!
Is released!
Is released!
Is released!
Is released!
Is released!
Is released!

The Alan Turing

Cryptography Day


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Chapter 4 of the Tale of The Mediæval Manuscript.

1952, Department of Mathematics, The University of Manchester

"Barquith! Come in here!" shouted Alan Turing as an immaculately Brylcreemed young student sauntered past his office.

Barquith entered the room. Turing's desk was covered in pieces of paper, each with detailed diagrams of chess moves surrounded by mathematical equations in Turing's neat handwriting.

"The truth, Barquith, is that I'm bored," said Turing. "There's been a court case and I've been banned from working on some of my favourite research problems. Your tutors have told me that you know about a lot of unsolved problems. My brain is open: tell me something interesting!"

"Well, Dr Turing", Barquith said, somewhat nervously. "I've heard that you like codes." Turing nodded cautiously; his involvement in the fight to crack the Enigma machine was still a state secret. "Well, have you heard of Manchester's mediaeval manuscript? In the 12th century, some remarkable mathematics was brought back to England from the court of Saladin, or so the story goes. The manuscript describes where this mathematical information is hidden, but it's written in a secret language that nobody can decipher."

"Let's have a look at it then!" said Turing, his curiosity instantly piqued.

"Ah, the thing is ... we can't," said Barquith. "The manuscript has been lost, if it ever existed. Some of the rumours suggest a connection to the John Rylands Library."

Turing leant back in his chair. "See if you can find out where the manuscript might be hidden. I'll contact an old friend of mine—just the person we need when it comes to deciphering unknown languages."

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Present day

"I have no idea what we're looking for or where to find it," he confessed.

"Same here," admitted Ellie. "Shall we explore more of the library? Maybe we'll find one of these guardians."

They left the Reading Room and walked down a corridor with a impressive carved stone ceiling. ("Is that a dragon?" asked Mike at one point. "Are those stone bats?" asked Ellie at another.) Rounding a corner, the children saw a doorway leading into a small room. A sign hung next to it: 'The Crawford Reading Room'.

Completely lined with book cases, the room was also surrounded by a balcony. In the centre stood several display cases, containing particularly rare books and old manuscripts: fragments of books from the Bible, and some of the first ever printed books. As Mike and Ellie entered the room they caught a glimpse of the twins, Darcie and Donna, inspecting one of the display cases.

"How on earth did they get ahead of us?" asked Ellie.

"Oh it's you two!" squeaked Donna as she turned and wandered to the door. "We're so far ahead of you!" echoed Darcie following her sister. "We're far smarter than you," they said in unison. "And we're going to make sure that we stay that way!"

The twins slammed the door with a solid thump. Mike tried the handle. "We're locked in!" he said. As they looked around to see if there were any other exits, a brown-robed figure loomed into view on the balcony above them. He dropped a piece of paper onto the floor below, and then vanished.

"How very mysterious! Who is that person?" said Mike, as Ellie picked up the piece of paper.

"I don't know, but he's given us another code," said Ellie.

Your task:

Your task: The deliberately dropped paper contains a hidden message. Decrypt it. Once you have done that, submit your answer to the question below.

Question: What is the last word of the plaintext?
Your answer:

You can not submit your answer since the Competition has now closed.