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Whilst researching an answer to Combination Lock, I was reminded of word puzzles such as the visual

enter image description here

popularized by newspaper puzzle pages and TV programs such as "Catchphrase". I am aware the modern term for such pictorial usage is rebus** (n.) c. 1600, from Latin rebus "by means of objects," and according to wiki can be traced back to similar usage in Egyptian hieroglyphics and possibly earlier.

However I seem to remember a form of cypher only using Latin letters but can't track such a reference. so for the example above it would look like

AcToImObN

Note that it would not necessarily have upper lower case that is just my emphasis for clarity.

Can anyone put my mind at rest that it's not just a MfYi gMmIeNnDt (a figment of my mind) and, more importantly, what is this kind of puzzle or cypher called?


Hellion reminded me a similar form of substituting some characters for words is called a Gramogram or grammagram (as may be used in text-speak) but that also is a more modern substitution. NOR were letters added, such as in Pig Latin. What I'm after is an older usage by just the "mixing" of original letters.

And microenzo has identified it as probably a form of plaintext transposition cipher, which at its simplest can be made by wrapping a strip round a scytalae former such as a pencil and with some variation (perhaps a Caesar cipher) that I still cant recollect would probably look like my garbled words.

Final Edit

It looks like it was a 2 line form of Rail Fence Cipher as used by the greeks on thier scytale from the answer by microenzo thus

"Now is the winter of our discontent"

after unwrapping would become

Nwi h itro u icnet
o stewne fordsotn.
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    If you're asking whether "AcToImObN" is still considered a rebus, my contention is Yes. (Apparently, per the link, it is also called a "grammagram".) – Hellion Dec 20 '18 at 17:26
  • The title of this page calls them Pictographs and has some good examples: fun-with-words.com/rebus_puzzle_explain.html I haven't found a dictionary that defines pictograph that way. – jejorda2 Dec 20 '18 at 17:56
  • I'm not sure what you are asking for here. Is it a single word or phrase for the kind of puzzle you've pictured? – Mitch Dec 20 '18 at 19:51
  • OK, but the important thing is that you need to specify that explicitly in your question, that you are looking for a single word for whatever it is you are talking about. – Mitch Dec 20 '18 at 20:10
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    Just for the sake of accuracy, a Caesar cypher wouldn't give you the result you expect, because it is a substitution cypher – microenzo Dec 20 '18 at 20:53
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I understand from the question that your query is about the word cypher, not the pictorial based puzzle.

From a cypher taxonomy point of view, what you describe is a transposition cypher, in particular i would say a type of columnar cypher (the latter point may be argued). You can find descriptions of this type of cypher readily on the web, but as usual Wikipedia is a good start:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transposition_cipher

However I think the question also refers to the relative word puzzle. I also can't find a reference to this type of anagram, as the searches for word puzzles/games are "polluted" by adverts for apps and board games. For what is worth, and I only report it here as a hint for further research, in Italian this type of puzzles is called intarsio, which translates as inlay.

  • What you describe is a scytale. I also can't find examples of the "inlay" technique in English - if, of course, it's called that. – microenzo Dec 20 '18 at 20:38
  • @KJO Wrapping the message around a cylinder is called a scytale cypher. – Mitch Dec 20 '18 at 20:42

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