Here is a comprehensive list of Aristocrat Cipher deciphering tools under the acronym of Few Pocket Tips. A creative minded can create a 3 x 5 pocket fitting card to keep handy for their solving expeditions.

F – Frequency counts

A good place to begin to look for the plaintext of frequently reoccurring letters.

E – Endings, popular word

Repetitious CIPHERTEXT word endings may well be these popular word endings – ing, ion, tion, ed, es, ess, ent

W – Word beginnings

Popular word beginnings include, an, at, be, de, dr, en, in, no, pre, pro, re, se, th, un. Keep these in mind as plaintext present itself.

P – Pattern words

These are words that have reoccurring letters. We refer to the pattern word of “there” with the reoccurring letter “e” as having a pattern of 1-2-3-4-3, which means that the third and fifth letters are the same. Pattern letters are helpful in uncovering ciphertext Some of the most popular are: “That, there, good, poor, see, little, people.” Pattern word lists can be found on the Internet and in many publications which define them by word length and letter sequence.

O – One letter words

One letter CIPHERTEXT words are plaintext letter “giveaways”. Most always it is an “a” or an “I.”

C – Cribs/tips

Placing cribs or tips in the correct location in the cipher will lead to the recovery of more plaintext. Lower case cribs are already plaintext and can be placed directly. Tips given in upper case letter Caesar format must have its letters shifted to arrive at the plaintext crib to be placed in the cipher. (See the JF or MA, 2000 Cm’s for a review of this process.)

K – Keyword alphabet

We have talked at some length about the value of the Keyword Alphabet as a deciphering tool and an aid to constructing a disguised message. Refer to the Keyword Alphabet example (JF11 Cm) to refresh your mind on its process.

E – Ending letters

Those letters most often used to end English words are, d, e, g, s, t, n, r, y – consider these letters as the plaintext begins to fill in.

T – Title

Do not overlook the cipher title as a good source for potential plaintext words in the ciphertext.

T – The

Keep on the lookout for repetitive three letter CIPHERTEXT (trigraphs) repeats which could signal the existence of the word “the” in the plaintext.

I – IQ

Sorry, but this is the only way I can slip the letter “Q” into our acronym. “Q” is usually followed by “u” and then by a vowel, “a, e, i, or o.”

P – Position of letters – Most popular

a,” first or next to last; “e,” second or next to last or last; “i,” third from end; “o,” second; “u,” first or next to the last; “y,” last.

S – Short words

Keep an eye out for these short words – in, it, is, of, no, on, and, the


A potpourri of cipher solving lore follows with Nom source references. These principles can be applied to most cipher types.

Crypts First Word or Two (ZANAC)

The following words are the first (or first and second) highest frequency opening plaintext of more than 1000 randomly selected ciphers from the ACA Cm Journal. The (18%), A (5%), I (5%), It is (2%), We (2%), To (2%), If you (2%), It’s (2%).

“That” Pattern (ZANAC)

Have you ever wasted time trying “that” for the 1231 / ABCA pattern word, only to find yourself led astray? Here are ten additional frequent words with the same pattern. “Area, dead, ease, edge, else, high, says, tact, tent, test.”

The Nudge as a Learning Tool (QUIPOGAM)

I get excited over the cipher nudge as a learning tool. I “cut my teeth” in learning to solve the Amsco cipher with nudges from FIZZY, Cryptarithm mathematical bases, other than ten, with nudges from RISHU and most recently learned a most valuable axiom in the solving of the Tri-digital cipher with a nudge from QUIPOGAM. He pointed out that although a Tri-digital ciphertext number can stand for up to three letters, a plaintext letter must always represent the same ciphertext number.

Some 122 / ABB Pattern Words (ZANAC)

These eight words should always be kept in mind when looking at those with a 122 / ABB pattern:



The letter ‘H’, except when beginning a word, is usually preceded by one (or more) of a small group of letters, C, G, P, S, T and W. If you find that it is a ‘G’ then the letters following this ‘GH’ are usually ‘I’, ‘OU’, ‘AU’ or ‘EI’. (Examples are fight, might, bough, tough, laugh, naughty, eight and neighbor.)

Finding the letter ‘H’ in a cryptogram will happen very often. This is because one of the first words we try to find in a cryptogram is the word ‘THE’. When placed, other occurrences of these letters usually appear in the cipher. When found, the small group of letters above can be attempted to precede it.


We have continually referenced the SENORITA letters as an anagram to recall the most frequently used letters in the English language. It comes from the keyboard of a nine year old original member of the ACA Kiddee Krewe, Ryne Bogart (SIR REBRAL), in a MA 2001 Cm article titled, “Cryptology is fun.” Proud pop, ACA Krewe, PHILLIES, tells us that Ryne has continued to grow up, smart.

Apostrophe Words: Contractions in ascending word-length order. (ZANAC)

‘D ‘M ‘S ‘T ‘LL ‘RE ‘VE

2-Letters I’d, I’m
3-Letters He’d, It’s, I’ll, I’ve, It’d, He’s, We’d

She’d, One’s, Ain’t, We’ll, we’re, We’ve, You’d, How’s, Can’t, He’ll Who’s, Don’t, Why’s, Isn’t, She’s, Let’s

5-Letters They’d, That’s, Aren’t, She’ll, You’re, You’ve, What’s, Hasn’t, You’ll, When’s, Wasn’t
6-Letters There’s, Doesn’t, They’ll, They’re, They’ve, Where’s, Mustn’t, Weren’t
7-Letters Couldn’t, Wouldn’t
8-Letters Shouldn’t

Former ACA member, Helen Fouche Gaines’ (PICCOLA) study of ciphers, Cryptanalysis, remains a classical text in the study of cipher analysis. Her account of vowel behavior follows.

Vowel behavior.

  1. A, E, I, O, are high frequency, U is moderate.
  2. Letters contacting low frequency letters are usually vowels.
  3. Letters showing a wide variety of contact letters are usually vowels.
  4. In repeated digraphs, one letter is usually a vowel.
  5. In reversed digraphs, one letter is usually a vowel.
  6. Doubled consonants (c) usually flanked by vowels (v), and vice versa. (cvvc or vccv).
  7. It is unusual to find more than 5 consonants in succession.
  8. If the CT letter with the highest frequency is assumed to be E. Any other high frequency letter that contacts it often cannot be a vowel.
  9. E is the most frequent vowel and rarely contacts O. Both double freely.
  10. “A” may follow but rarely precedes E.
  11. The vowel that reverses with E is I.
  12. Observations 10 and 11 apply to the vowel O, but U precedes E and follows O.
  13. The only vowel-vowel digraphs of consequence are OU, EA and IO.
  14. Three vowels in sequence may be IOU, EOU, UOU and EAU.

Codes, Ciphers & Secret Writing, Gardner

  1. The most common word letter end is E.
  2. The most common word letter beginning is T.
  3. The most frequent two letter words, OF, TO, IN.
  4. The most common three letter words, THE, AND.
  5. Q is most always followed by U.
  6. The consonant most often following a vowel is N.
  7. The most common double letters in regular order are LL, EE, SS, OO, FF, RR, NN, PP & CC.
  8. The most frequently used four letter word is THAT.

The Science of Secret Writing, Dwight Smith

Order Frequency of Initial Letters: T, O, A, W, B, C, D, S, F, M, R, H, I, Y, E, G, L, N, P, U, J, K.

Order Frequency of Final Letters: E, S, T, D, N, R, Y, F, L, O, G, H, A, K, M, P, U, W

Quote Authors’ Names (ZANAC)

Authors’ names are most useful with proper nouns at the beginning or end of Aristocrats, Xenocrypts and many Cipher Exchange constructions indicate an author’s name. The above list is not a pattern list but often, names will be found to contain a pattern and can indicate exact names like “Ann, George, William, Richard” and many others. Proper nouns form a frequency table and pattern list of their own. Keep such a list with your own patterns.

Constructor Patterns

Also helpful is a constructor index list with their use of frequent cipher topics, title relevancy, vowel (use or disuse), grammatical style (use of past or present participle verbs ending in “ed” or “ing”), foreign language proficiency for Xenocrypt X-7 identification.

WSJ.Com Making Every Word Count ( FLEUR DE LIS)

Check this site for word frequencies and a list of the one hundred most used English words.

Solving Resources

Check the Resources section under our ACA Website at for helpful tips on all cipher types and nudges on current Cm ciphers.