Sunday, August 9, 2009

Clue #110 Revisited--The Next Level

In my previous blog post, I incorrectly stated that the term "AURORA" had not shown up as a puzzle solution over this past week; I was unaware that a Doubleday official had confirmed that as the answer to Clue #97. In addition, I asserted that the term "WICKHAM" referred to John Wickham; I was unaware that an official at Doubleday had confirmed that the name as it came up in Clue #107 referred to William Wickham. I am very grateful to the community of readers on this blog for setting me straight on the official answers, and I shall redouble my efforts to provide careful commentary regarding the Dan Brown clues sent out by Twitter. I also apologize to the fine folks at Doubleday for suggesting that they were practicing disinformation.

Having said that, I thought it worthwhile to take each of the puzzle solutions mentioned in Clue #110 to "the next level": that is, to give the background of the entities mentioned in each puzzle solution, and show their connections to other Twitter clues. Additionally, I thought I'd take a stab at showing how each clue might connect with The Lost Symbol. As always, your comments are welcome.

Clue #110

Posted at 4:21 p.m. (PDT) on Friday, August 7th:


The use of the word "Hint" suggests that all of these items are to be considered as a whole, not just as individual clues. I'll return to that notion later in this post. For the moment, though, let's consider each of these puzzle solutions individually.


As I mention in my post about Clue #97, a Doubleday executive, Frank Nelson, confirmed that the answer to this puzzle is "Aurora," explicitly mentioning that this refers to the hypersonic aircraft, the existence of which has been rumored in the aeronautical community for years. In addition, as Sandy Tamayo mentioned on the Dan Brown Facebook fan page, in 1992 Steven Douglas photographed the distinctive 'doughnuts on a rope' contrail that seems to be characteristics of the Aurora; this sighting occurred in Amarillo, TX (the coordinates of which show up in Clue #97), and Sandy mentioned that Douglas' description of the engine noise appears in the May 11, 1992 edition of Aviation Week and Space Technology. (There is also another possibility that I mention below.)

Babington Plot

The Babington Plot was mentioned 'way back in Clue #15, and was mentioned this past week in Clue #95. I have just restored my post on Clue #15, where you can read about the plot itself, and the themes that it brings up -- the most notable one being the theme of failed or broken codes that bring about the downfall of conspiracies.

Black Hand

As I mention in my post about Clue #96, the Black Hand were a real political conspiracy in early 20th century Serbia, a conspiracy that committed a political assassination that set in motion World War I. I hypothesized that, in The Lost Symbol, a group going by the same name might be involved in a conspiracy that could result in global warfare.

Boniface VIII

Pope Boniface VIII (1235-1303), as I mention in my post about Clue #98, held very strong opinions against the separation of Church and State. These opinions were shared by some subsequent popes, including Pope Leo XIII, who in his letter Humanum Genus (1884) faulted the Freemasons for their support of the separation of church and state; in turn, the famous Scottish Rite Masonic leader Albert Pike wrote a response defending Freemasonry from the many criticism of Freemasonry found in Humanum Genus.

I speculated that The Lost Symbol might feature a face-off between some conspiracy that supported theocratic rule (that is, rule of the nation by religious authorities), on the one hand, and some component of the Scottish Rite, on the other.

(There is also another way that Boniface VIII might turn up in The Lost Symbol, as I describe below.)

Double Cross System

The Double-Cross System, mentioned in Clue #92, was the famous system created during World War II by MI5, the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), which is parallel in its function to the American CIA. In this system, almost every German spy sent into British territory during WWII was turned into a double agent, supposedly working for the Germans against the British, but actually working for the British against the Germans.

Double agents have shown up in the Twitter clues before, including Benedict Arnold (Clue #30), Edward Bancroft (an associate of Silas Deane, Clue #42), Robert Hanssen (Clue #51), and Aldrich Ames (Clue #55). In a sense, then, what Clue #92 does is further establish that one or more double agents will show up in The Lost Symbol.


Clue #105 indicates that the "conspiracy objective" -- that is, presumably, the objective of the conspiracy in The Lost Symbol -- is monopoly. Monopoly, of course, means "sole control." However, this leaves up in the air whether this is a monopoly of a commodity (like, say, gold--which is often hinted at in the Twitter clues), or a monopoly of power.

Roberto Calvi

Robert Calvi was found dead, hanging by the neck from Blackfriars Bridge in London, which is shown in the surveillance camera feed featured in Clue #101. Calvi was a member of a renegade pseudo-Masonic lodge in Italy, P2, and featured prominently in a banking scandal where an enormous amount of money vanished, bringing down an Italian bank.

There are at least two points of potential relevance for The Lost Symbol. There may be some renegade Masonic group involved. In addition, the novel may well feature a conspiracy involving a vast amount of money -- such as the Confederate gold supposedly stashed away by the Knights of the Golden Circle (Clue #34). (I mean, come on -- how could you have a vast, powerful, high-stakes conspiracy without a pile of cash to fund it all? Let's be practical here!)


Clue #94 indicates that Surveillance is directed "everywhere, to everyone, at all times." (In passing, I note the use of the ancient Atbash cipher in this clue, which dates back at least as far as the composition of the Jewish Bible.)

Surveillance is a frequent theme in the Twitter clues. The question is: does the Conspiracy merely use surveillance as a method to pursue its ends, or is surveillance itself the very heart of the Conspiracy?

William Wickham

In my response to Clue #107, I present the case that the solution to the puzzle posed in that Clue was John Wickham, a Loyalist during the Revolutionary War who was forced to move to the South after the War, and who went on to defend Aaron Burr in his trial for treason, when Burr tried to found an empire in the West--an example later emulated by the real-life Knights of the Golden Circle.

However, I have had it presented to me on good authority that the Wickham of Clue #107 is actually William Wickham, a British spymaster who worked against the French Revolution. Indeed, perhaps both Wickhams make an appearance.

In either case, the implication for The Lost Symbol involves espionage and back-stabbing galore. There is also another possibility, which I describe below -- immediately below, in fact.


A cryptonym (as mentioned in Clue #103) is a code name used to disguise an intelligence operation; instead of saying "our plot to restore the Merovingian kings to the throne of France" in your communications to your associates, you can simply say, "Operation Sophie's Choice" and leave your opponents scratching their heads in case they intercept your message.

Of course, cryptonyms can also be applied to places, and to people. As noted in Clue #92, the World War II-era British Double-Cross System pinned names like Brutus, Charlie, Garbo, and Zig Zag on its double agents. And it is in this connection that many of the puzzles summarized in this clue, Clue #110, might have a special meaning.

It is entirely possible that terms like AURORA (or AMARILLO!), BABINGTON, BLACK HAND, BONIFACE, CALVI, and WICKHAM will appear in The Lost Symbol as cryptonyms, code names for people, places, or plans that are of importance in some intelligence operation. ("Tell BABINGTON to report to WICKHAM in AURORA about BLACK HAND's progress on PROJECT BONIFACE." I put these terms in capital letters because the practice in an earlier generation was to capitalize cryptonyms in American intelligence reports.)

Putting the Hints Together: Relevance to The Lost Symbol

Here's one way to put it together:

A secret organization for whom assassination is not too far to go (a Black Hand-like group) is at work to further the cause of implementing a full-scale theocracy in the United States (a Boniface-like agenda), which would give them a monopoly on political power. They are infiltrated by law enforcement or the civilian or military intelligence community, but the infiltrators are themselves double-agents (the Double-Cross System) who use the surveillance capacities of their government agencies -- including the use of classified "Black Triangle" high-performance aircraft -- to further the aims of the Conspiracy. The plot requires immense funds (a la Calvi), and perhaps involves achieving a monopoly on the precious metals market. The Illuminati (either the foes or secret bosses of William Wickham) and/or the current incarnation of the Knights of the Golden Circle (once secretly supported by John Wickham) appear in the novel, either opposing the Conspiracy (the Illuminati) or supporting it (an element of the Knights?). However, the Conspiracy begins to fall apart when its code (perhaps patterned on the Atbash cipher? or the Aurora algorithm?) is broken (like Babington's code). (Of course, we haven't worked in the Revolutionary War era or Freemasonry yet.)

Or it might be nothing like this at all. However, you can see many major potential elements of the novel, summarized in Clue #110.

[Above you see the image of the staircase at St. Mary's Lighthouse on Whitley Bay. Supplied by Copyright (c) The image is used here under the first licensing option offered by use permitted with "attribution to the image and a link back to"]

Copyright 2009 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. It probably should be noted that if Dan Brown does use Aurora as a fast-mode of travel, he's going to be treading over old ground - as he already used it in Deception Point for exactly this purpose.

    On the other hand, he's probably already got the research details to hand to save him time... ;)


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