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Questions about the competition

The Body in My Library Forums Harry’s Meeting Place Questions about the competition

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    Not sure about something competition related? Post it here and someone will get back to you. If it is urgent then email Harry at [email protected] so he can get one of the Elves to take a look and get back to you.


    Hi, Just wondering if we are allowed to use computer programs, either that we have created or ready-made external resources such as the dCode calculator range?
    Also BTW a cool bit of feedback about last year’s challenges: my computer science class had an “Extracurricular day” and the theme was ciphers – guess who won the certificate? Thanks for that!

    [You can use any tools we provide here on the site and anything you write yourself, but use of other people’s codebreaking software would potentially render you ineligible for prizes. We ask potential winners to provide an account of how they cracked the challenge and to send us any code they use).

    You are right, that is very coolabout your certificate, well done! Would love to Tweet about it. Do we have your permission, and can we use your forum name in the tweet?



    Sure you can use the info, and thanks for clarifying about the decoders.
    [Thank you! Harry]


    Hi all,
    Do we have to reregister every year, or do the details carry over? I’ve been reregistering, but that might just be me forgetting my details…
    {You have to re-register as we delete all the accounts every year in line with our GDPR policy. H]


    Thanks again for running the competition. I understand and follow your rules regarding only using tools provided here and software written myself to solve the challenges. But, it may be worth thinking about running an open challenge at some point. Not part of the competition itself, but an opportunity for anyone interested to explore and use the tools provided by CyberChef and the like. I haven’t used them myself, but they look a terrific resource for anyone interested in following a career in cryptography, cybersecurity, or just exploring similar avenues in considerable depth. It would seem a natural progression for anyone already showing an interest in cryptography.


    Where is the boss substitution app thing?
    [In the Official BOSS deciphering tools section under the RESOURCES menu. Harry]


    Are we allowed to copy and paste code from external sources to then modify to help with cracking the ciphers or do we have to write everything ourselves?
    [You should write your own code rather than use something you find on the web as the point of the competition is to learn new skills! Hope you enjoy the Challenge! Best wishes, Harry]


    Hi, n the non-practice rounds (round 4 and above) will we be told which cipher is being used or do we have to figure that out ourselves?


    [We shall see! It might change week to week! Good luck, Harry]


    Hi, what is the difference between Leaderboard A and Leaderboard B? On the website it says that Leaderboard B measures both speed and accuracy so is that the same with Leaderboard A?


    [Good question. Leaderboard A gives your position for the part A challenges and is based entirely on accuracy (no time bands). Leaderboard B covers your submissions to the part B challenges and is scored for accuracy AND speed, though accuracy is more important than speed. Harry]


    Is the official keyword for 6A [… Yes,of course! Harry]?
    And what is […] supposed to mean? [Whatever you want it to mean! Or not. Maybe I will leave you to look it up. Harry]


    Re accuracy, if I first submit an incorrect answer then acorrect one does this affect my score? Also, why do the cerificates sometimes say silver, and sometimes gold?

    [Improving your accuracy can only improve your score as accuracy outweighs speed. Speed only counts for part B challenges anyway, and at this stage of the competition only as much as the time bands. We give Gold certificates to the top 25% of competitors for each stage, Silver for the next 25% and Bronze for everyone else. Hope that is clear. Harry]


    Harry, can you confirm that the official keyword for 7B is VOYAGER? Maybe VOYAGES or something else?

    [I can now! Harry]


    But which is the official? R or S?


    Hi Harry,
    I’ve seen in the FAQ that “The points schedule for each challenge is linked from the Challenge page.”
    Does this mean that the points schedule for challenges are not posted ahead of time?
    Can we safely assume that the max points for each challenge will continue to end 11pm on the day after the challenge is released?


    [If you click on a challenge that hasn’t started yet you will see the points schedule. I should remark that the chapter 10 deadlines are not all 11pm, and that we do use speed of submission as well as quality and points on that last challenge when deciding medal placements. Hope that helps, Harry]


    Relating to the use of your own code in the competition, are we allowed to use pre-built modules. For example, for a python program, the use of the “wordninja” module (used for splitting a block of text into as many words as possible)? I assume basic modules (unlike a “ceaser cipher auto-decrypt” module) are ok?

    [That is certainly in the spirit of the rules. We do ask the top codebreakers to provide us with the code they wrote to crack the challenges, if any, and take account of originality and quality of that code, so over-reliance on pre-written modules can have an effect on final rankings, but we don’t expect people to be writing their own compilers, so there has to be a grey area! Harry]

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