About a month ago, British High Court Justice Peter Smith ruled that Dan Brown had not plagiarized an earlier work ("Holy Blood, Holy Grail") when writing his best-seller (you may have heard of it), "The Da Vinci Code." It turns out that the judge’s opinion contains an odd pattern of italicized letters, sometimes just one in the middle of a word, and the first ten of these letters spell out "SMITHY CODE." The next 30 are a jumble, and experts around the world immediately started feverish efforts to crack the Smithy Code.
Actually, nobody noticed for about three weeks, which may tell you how closely people read judicial opinions. Eventually, Dan Tench, a partner at a London law firm, noticed it and mentioned something to a legal-affairs reporter, whose paper published a small item about it. In a brief telephone interview on Wednesday, Justice Smith refused to confirm or deny anything about a code, saying "I can’t discuss the judgment until after I retire."
But then he did. A lot. Clearly disappointed that nobody had noticed his handiwork, he then emailed back with a series of cryptic comments. He first admitted there was a code, and then that he had plagarized — I mean, borrowed — the idea from "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," to which potential code-breakers might want to look. Then he emailed back to say "Think mathematics," a reference to a method used by characters in Brown’s book. Then he said people might want to look at his own reference in "Who’s Who," which, it turns out, mentions the judge’s lifelong interest in Jackie Fisher, who, as you are aware, was a British admiral who came up with the idea for the dreadnought battleship.
You know, this started out as an intriguing mystery, sort of.
Finally, the judge said "Start with ‘s’ and keep looking up to Page 18 approximately where the fonts stop." (Oh, just tell us what it is already.) Well, the decoded message, which took less than 24 hours to decode with the judge’s clues, turns out to be "Jackie Fisher, who are you? Dreadnought," and frankly is kind of a letdown. Shouldn’t it be some revelation about Jesus killing a guy with his bare hands for no reason or something like that? Hm. The judge insisted that his coded message "reveals a significant but now overlooked event [the invention of the dreadnought, I guess] that occurred virtually 100 years to the day of the start of the trial." Fair enough.