Dancing Men

The Dancing Men cipher is a code invented by Arthur Conan Doyle for use in a Sherlock Holmes story, but as since become an occasional feature of some cipher-based hunt puzzles.

Background[edit | edit source]

The Dancing Men cipher was created for use in the Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Dancing Men. In said story, a substitution cipher is used extensively, replacing alphabetical characters with stick figures in various poses. The image below is the first message shown in the story, and translates to the message 'AM HERE ABE SLANEY'.

To do TO DO

Puzzle Application[edit | edit source]

Functionally, the Dancing Men cipher is just another type of Simple Substitution Cipher, as each letter of the alphabet (and in some variations, each digit from 0-9) is represented by a unique stick figure. However, as seen in the message above, there are some extra elements. In particular, the presence of flags may or may not be used in a given message, but can be applied to established figures to indicate the end of a word.

Dancing Men have the advantage of resembling basic stick-figure drawings, allowing them to be obscured within any type of human body image by simply posing said body in particular ways. This process has been done many times with other stick figures, but has also been performed using Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man drawing.

Strategy[edit | edit source]

-To do TO DO

Examples[edit | edit source]

  • A Message in Space (MITMH 2009) (web) - The aforementioned use of the Vitruvian Man to express the Dancing Men cipher. In it, figures pass by a 'window', allowing solvers to see exactly one at a time.
  • Dancing Girls (MITMH 2017) (web) - Instead of being presented as contained messages, this puzzle presents the Dancing Men in a sort of shotgun spread, giving solvers 54 figures to analyze at once. Thankfully, they can also sort them fairly easily, grouping them by the Disney princess each figure has been styled after.

See Also[edit | edit source]