The CIA’s first challenge is Recombinant Ashbery. The plain text consists of one stanza from John Ashbery poem “A”, and two stanzas from John Ashbery poem “B”. The encoder places the single “A” stanza before, between, or after the two “B” stanzas. The title for the cyphertext is the titles for poems “A” and “B” in random order. Decoder must guess which is the “A” stanza and which is the “A” title.
Meaningful Love / Mottled Tuesday [I flipped a coin]
by John / Ashbery
There were morose gardens farther down the slope,
anthills that looked like they belonged there.
The sausages were undercooked,
the wine too cold, the bread molten.
Who said to bring sweaters?
The climate’s not that dependable.
Something was about to go laughably wrong,
whether directly at home or here,
on this random shoal pleading with its eyes
till it too breaks loose, caught in a hail of references.
I’ll add one more scoop
to the pile of retail.
The Atlantic crawled slowly to the left
pinning a message on the unbound golden hair of sleeping maidens,
a ruse for next time,
The above Recombinant Ashbery was abstracted directly from the John Ashbery page at Poets.org (and you can easily figure out the solution there) but there’s an enormous amount of his stuff available in libraries and used book stores with which to construct such puzzles of diabolic difficulty.
But what’s really going to drive the NSA nuts is figuring out John Ashbery’s poems themselves 🙂