Moon Type

The Moon System of Embossed Reading, also called Moon type and Moon code is a writing system for the blind, intended as an alternative to braille that is easier to understand for those who have knowledge of letter shapes from before losing their vision. This is achieved by deriving its alphabet from Latin letters, but in a simplified form. Despite the intention, braille is still widely preferred.

Background[edit | edit source]

Moon type was invented by William Moon in the mid 1840s, having lost his sight to scarlet fever in 1839. The creation was inspired by his time working as a teacher for blind children, who apparently had trouble with other embossed reading systems (such as braille), prompting him to attempt to remedy this with his own system.

What resulted was an alphabetical and punctuation system that was larger and more line-based than braille, instead focusing heavily on resembling the letters they represent. This meant that symbols took up more space, making them less effective for printing large bodies of text. As a side effect to this design choice, Moon type also ended up being doubly effective for blind users with poor sense of touch, or those with learning disabilities.

Moon type also proved to be quite popular with Christian missionaries, who used translated versions of the Gospel of Luke while Ningbo, China during the Qing dynasty. Moon type proved to be competent at displaying several non-English languages, including French, Dutch, Greek, Arabic, and the aforementioned Ningbo (romanised, of course). An attempt was made at displaying romanised Mandarin, but the missionary in charge of this attempt (Hudson Taylor) failed to account for tone markings, as Ningbo had not made use of them.

Puzzle applications[edit | edit source]

The Moon type alphabet (minus punctuation)

In terms of its use as a code, Moon type has some advantages and disadvantages compared to its main competitor of braille. For example, every braille letter can be formed in puzzles by shading cells in a 2x3 grid. Since letters in Moon type don't have a consistent base structure, it isn't easily adapted to grid-based puzzles.

Moon type compensates by being very effective in puzzle that involve drawing paths. Being a symbolic writing system, Moon type also has the benefit of using symbols that already resemble other symbols in other fields (such as the A resembling a caret (^) or the X resembling a greater-than sign (>)). This makes the system useful for puzzles willing to use word-association or symbol-association to indicate particular Moon type letters.

Overall, Moon type is best suited for puzzles that make full use of its unique structure of single-line letters.

Strategy[edit | edit source]

Identification[edit | edit source]

Moon type is not always immediately identifiable as such, particularly if a puzzle utilizes individual letters rather than full lines of text. The symbols can easily be mistaken for non-Moon type symbols, but may become more identifiable when multiple are looked at at once. In general it's a good idea to look at a series of shapes or symbols in a puzzle, particularly ones drawn through symbol recreation extractions, so that you can get a better idea of how they're connected rather than viewing them in isolation.

Unlike many other codes, the name of Moon type is thematic to potential puzzle topics. While the name's origin has nothing to do with the actual moon, puzzles will tend to use lunar references to hint solvers to its presence. Even though references to the moon, moon landings, or space in general are not a surefire sign that Moon type is in use, they should at least put solvers on alert that it may pop up somewhere in the solving process.

Decryption[edit | edit source]

As with most 1:1 substitutions, Moon type can be easily translated using an alphabet guide, as seen above. Even if one is not available to you, keep in mind that the script was developed to include symbols that resembled parts of each letter. Remembering some of the odder choices (like B and Y) while allowing your mind to fill in the blanks for the rest may be enough to decode Moon type without a guide.

Notable examples[edit | edit source]

A laptop sticker from the 2016 Berkeley Mystery Hunt. The letters "CAL" are written in Moon Type.
  • Endymion (Meta) (MITMH 2016) (web) - Click to revealPuzzles in this round gave answers that could be interpreted as looking like symbols from the Moon Type alphabet. These included RABBIT EARS for V and BACKSLASH for R. This was further clued by the topic of the round, Endymion, who in Greek mythology had a relationship with Selene, the personification of the moon.
  • Small Steps (MITMH 2019) (web) - Partway through this MIT runaround puzzle with a general space-ish theme, solvers get told to Click to reveal'USE MOON'. This acts as two different instructions for this puzzle. The first is telling solvers to repeat the runaround on the moon, travelling between places visited during various lunar excursions. The second is telling them to use Moon type, which can be used to translate the resulting line segments they get from their moon runaround.

See also[edit | edit source]