Pattern Words

A basic technique in solving cryptograms is looking at what puzzle people call pattern words, words that repeat one or more letters (not necessarily consecutively). People who do cryptograms regularly get to know the common ones. For example, if you see XYZX in a cryptogram — especially when you know the result will be a quotation or otherwise more or less normal English — then nine times out of ten it will stand for the word that. There are other words with the same pattern — sews, bomb, aqua, high — but that is by far the most common of them in normal English. In the same way, VWXVYW is usually people, while the similar VWXVYZ is almost always always.

So a while back Dave was sitting across the kitchen table from me working on one of those daily newspaper cryptograms, one in which the answer is always a quotation, and he saw a pattern word he couldn’t find any answer for. He told me what it was — XYZ’XX, with an apostrophe. After maybe 10 or 15 seconds the light went on and I knew not only what the word was but what the entire quotation was. (I’ll leave it for you to solve.)

Then I got to thinking about whether there are other reasonably well-known quotations that could be gotten in the same way from a single pattern word. I couldn’t think of any others.

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