Parent Guide - Spies, Lies and Serious Bad Guys

Spies, Lies and Serious Bad Guys is a mad-cap mystery that unfolds through a series of personalized letters, top secret missions, curious objects and cool spy gadgets. There are ciphers to crack, codes to enter, clues to solve, and an evil villain to foil. The adventure begins with an acceptance letter to spy school, but training is interrupted when a secret agent goes missing. If the villain’s plans succeed, fun will be gone forever. Seriously. No more fun. Forever! Mwah ha ha ha ha!

Installment #1

What is in it?
-White envelope 6” x 9”
-Welcome letter to spy school
-Color brochure about the spy school
-Aptitude quiz or spy questionnaire, depending on whether you ordered “Send Weekly” or “All in One Box”
-Stamped envelope for returning the questionnaire (weekly only)

What is happening in the story?
Kid(s) receive a letter telling them that they have been accepted to spy school. The brochure contains info about the spy school. The aptitude test/questionnaire asks kids what it means to be a spy, and what kind of spy skills they have.

What is there to be solved?
There are two ciphers in the aptitude test/questionnaire.
There is a third cipher at the end of the aptitude test/questionnaire. Decipher the message and follow the instructions to find a clue. Call the spy hotline or go to the spy website and enter the clue for information about your mission.

Need a hint?

Kids may recognize the two ciphers in the questionnaire if they have done other Mail Order Mysteries, but it is not necessary to solve them. You could look up “pigpen cipher” and “Templar cipher” if you want to find the answer keys, but if you are interested in doing other mysteries in the future you may want to leave them unanswered.


The cipher at the bottom of the page is a substitution cipher, and the key is directly above it.

The answer to the question is underlined in the spy brochure. 

Just give me the answer!

The pigpen cipher says: I LOVE PIRATE TREASURE


The Templar cipher says: THE TROLL LOVES BOOKS


The substitution cipher says: SOMEWHERE IN THIS PACKAGE IS A THREE DIGIT CODE, FIND IT


The 3 digit code: 307


The message says that the operation has been compromised and that the director will contact you as soon as he can. 

Installment #2

What is in it?

-White envelope 9”x12”

-Letter from the director of the spy school

-Classified mission

-Cipher wheel that needs to be cut out, a small coin envelope that contains a split pin for attaching the disks together

-Small blue spy handbook (4” x 6”, 48 pages)

-Magnifying card


What is happening in the story?

The director of the spy school sends a letter explaining that two agents have disappeared along with a top secret item. Kid(s) receive details of their first mission: locate the missing agents and the missing item. The spy handbook contains all kinds of useful - and helpful - information.


What is there to be solved?

There is a cipher at the bottom of the letter. Use the cipher disk to translate the message and find the three digit code. Call the hotline or enter the code on the website for information about the mission.


There are also clues hidden in the “ciphers” section in the spy handbook.

Need a hint?

Trouble with the cipher disk? If you have assembled the cipher disk, located the key letter and followed the instructions but your message does not make sense, you may be working the wheel in the wrong direction. Cipher disks can be used in two ways: to create messages and to decipher messages. For one way you work from the inside to the outside of the disk. For the other you work from the outside to the inside. When you are deciphering a message you must work from the inside out.


First locate the key letter A on the outside of the circle and match it up with the key letter on the inside circle. Now locate the letters of the message on the inside of the disk and write down the corresponding letters on the outside of the disk. If you work the other way around it won't work.


Trouble locating the three digit code? At the end of the spy director’s letter he says to read the spy handbook. You’re going to need it.


Trouble entering the code? If you are sure you have the correct code but can’t access the website, make sure you are entering the correct URL. Each code has a unique URL. The names for the first two missions are similar and it is easy to get them mixed up. The URL for the first installment is "shoeacademy.org/footlocker" and the URL for the second installment is "shoeacademy.org/footloose".


The puzzles in the handbook On page 16 - 18 there are instructions for deciphering a message with a keyword. There is an example of a keyword on page 5. If you use that keyword to solve the cipher on page 18 a message is revealed.


Just give me the answer!

The key letter for the cipher disk is “B”.


The message at the bottom of the director’s letter translates to:

YOU MUST FIND HIGHTOP BEFORE SHE FINDS SARCASMO

IF THEY ARE WORKING TOGETHER THE WC IS LOST

THE CODE NUMBER IS FUN SHOE DOOR


The answer to “Fun Shoe Door” can be found on page 35 of the spy handbook. The code is 124.


When you call in or enter the three digit code (124) you get a message saying that there may be a mole in the organization and that if you locate the missing agent you must proceed with caution.


The ciphers in the handbook reveal important information. The example asks “WHERE IS HIGHTOP?” The example of the rail fence cipher says “SCRABBLE TOURNAMENT” and if you use the keyword on page 5 (Candy) to solve the cipher on page 18 it says “SARCASMO WILL BE THERE”.

Installment #3

What is in it?

-Small white envelope 4 ¾” x 6”

-Postcard from Moscow

-Coin envelope that contains 10 scrabble tiles

-Ticket for a Scrabble tournament

-Business card from the missing agent


What is happening in the story?

The 3rd installment is different from the previous ones. The first two are official missions, which is why they have codes to enter for more information. But now the agent is on the run and she is trying to send a message however she can. The postcard is from Moscow, where the Scrabble tournament takes place. Her message means that her cover is blown and she needs help.


What is there to be solved?

The Scrabble tiles can be arranged to spell two words. They will help you find a clue that you have to look very carefully to find.


On the back of the Scrabble tournament ticket there is a message written in a cipher.


Need a hint?

The Scrabble tiles tell you exactly where to look to find a hidden clue. To read the clue you may need the magnifying glass that came in the second installment.


The cipher on the back of the Scrabble ticket is called “Dancing Man”. The key can be found on page 19 in the spy handbook that you received in the previous installment. 

Just give me the answer!

The dancing man cipher says: SHOE NOT SAFE GO ALONE


The scrabble tiles spell “Under Stamp”.


If you peel back the postage stamp you will find a “microdot” - a teeny tiny message from the missing agent.

Installment #4

What is in it?

-Kraft envelope 9” x 12”

-Letter on hotel stationary

-Receipt

-Photograph of a Scrabble board

-Package of false mustaches


What is happening in the story?

In the previous installment we learned that our own spy organization is not to be trusted and the organization that we thought was a friend to us is not. We now know that this organization is up to no good and if we don’t stop their evil plan, fun will be gone forever. In this installment you get a letter from another agent who is at the Scrabble tournament. He has found a source for intel, a henchman who is willing to talk. We now have proof that shows what the evil villain is up to and we know where to find his secret lair. But, according to the message left on the Scrabble board, it looks like this agent’s cover has been blown as well.


What is there to be solved?

At the bottom of the agent’s letter there is text written in two different ciphers.


Need a hint?

There are two ciphers in this puzzle. The first part of the cipher needs a key letter and the cipher disk to solve. The keyword is underlined somewhere in the letter. This message tells you how to find the three digit code for this installment.


The second part of the message is a rail fence cipher. The instructions can be found in the spy handbook on page 20.

Just give me the answer!

Key letter is “C”. The first part of the message says: WE NEED BACKUP. I CAN’T MAKE THE CALL. THIS PLACE IS FULL OF COMPUTER HACKERS AND THE PHONES ARE ALL BUGGED. SPY HOTLINE CODE IS HIGHTOP’S TICKET NUMBER MINUS ADMISSION PRICE.


The code is 921. When you call in or enter the 3 digit code the message says that you have activated the emergency help response unit, and that we will send help immediately.


The rail fence cipher says: DID YOU LOOK BEHIND THE POSTAGE STAMP

Installment #5

What is in it?

-Large brown envelope 10” x 13”

-Letter from the night watchman

-Kraft 9” x 12” envelope stamped “Top Secret”

-Mission details

-“Wanted” poster


What is happening in the story?

You get a letter from the night watchmen, who is an old retired spy. He has some advice for young spies about not putting top secret information on the internet. He also knows who the mole is, and leaves you two ciphered messages. The top secret envelope contains your latest mission, which is to stop the evil organization that is trying to end all fun in the world.


What is there to be solved?

In the night watchman’s letter there are two ciphers: one in dancing man and one which requires a keyword.


Need a hint?

Instructions for solving the dancing man cipher are on page 19 of the spy handbook. The message tells you where to find your keyword.


Instructions for solving a cipher with a keyword are at the end of the night watchman’s letter. 

Just give me the answer!

The dancing man cipher says: KEYWORD IN HANDBOOK PAGE ELEVEN LINE TWO WORD SIX.


The word “COMPUTERS” is the keyword for the night watchman’s cipher: THE MOLE IS AGENT BOOT. HIS PLAN IS TO STEAL THE WC FROM (THE MISSING AGENT) AND SELL IT TO SOCK. I HAD TO STOP BOOT. I PUT THAT SCRABBLE TICKET UNDER HIGHTOP’S DOOR. I WROTE SHOE NOT SAFE SO SHE WOULD GO ALONE AND NOT TELL ANYONE, NOT EVEN BOOT.

Installment #6

What is in it?

-White #10 business sized envelope

-Congratulations letter

-Final mission

-White cardboard box containing a white #10 business sized envelope, an invisible ink/UV pen and a locked safe disguised as a dictionary

-The safe is opened with a 3 digit code, inside is a certificate of congratulations, the top secret "WC" and a personalized spy ID card


What is happening in the story?

Now that Boot has been identified as the mole and the evil villain has been exposed, the mission is (almost) complete. The missing agents are safe and sound, the bad guys are in jail and the WC is now entrusted to you - as long as you can complete your final mission and find the code to open the top secret safe.


What is there to be solved?

Decipher the message in the mission to receive your final set of instructions. 


Need a hint?

This cipher can be solved without a key or code if you use the hints on page 22 of the spy handbook. Or you can call the spy hotline or go to the website to get a keyword.


You must answer 3 questions to find three numbers:

   The first number can be found by looking at the mission details from installment #5.

   The second number can be found by checking the scrabble tiles in installment #3.

   The third number can be found on page 23 of the spy handbook. 

Just give me the answer!

The code is 536.


The keyword is “SOMETHING” and the message says:

I KNOW THAT YOU CAN DO THIS!

ENTER THE THREE DIGIT CODE IN THIS ORDER:

-HOW MANY PHASES IN SOCK’S EVIL PLAN (ANSWER: 5)

-HOW MANY POINTS IS THE LETTER P WORTH ON A SCRABBLE TILE (ANSWER: 3)

-THERE IS AN INVISIBLE NUMBER HIDDEN IN THE SHOE GUIDE FOR SPIES. WHAT IS IT? (ANSWER: 6)