Code Breaking 101: Keyword Substitutions


After figuring out the encoding method for a code and finally getting something that’s in the proper passcode format. You attempt to redeem the passcode only to get back: Invalid passcode. It’s time for a keyword substitution!

Artist rendition of a keyword sub.

Artist rendition of a keyword sub. Thanks Dean Nielson (@REDMAN247)

Where to look

Here are some ideas to consider when figuring out keyword substitutions:

  • Niantic Project Wiki – this is normally the first place I look for substitutions. Just put the word that needs to be substituted into the search box and see what happens. It’s also an excellent resource to find full names of Niantic characters and the companies they represent, both of which are common keyword substitutions
  • Glyphs – if a keyword is really short, chances are it is a Glyph. Daniel Beaudoin‘s Glyphtionary is the one I like to use
  • Google/Wikipedia – depending on the word(s) that need to be substituted, a search will definitely help. Famous scientists/authors make up a portion of the list of keywords and the words you look up could be their experiments or publications
  • Dictionary/Thesaurus – sometimes just knowing the definition of a word or a synonym could help you find the substitution
  • Other languages – you’ll often find a transposition of a code that matches the passcode format but the keyword portion is non-English, translating it into English could lead to the keyword
  • Common sense – over complicating things is a decoder’s absolute worst nightmare, especially when it gets mixed in with keyword substitutions
  • Context – the place where the code is found is usually a clue, especially if the code just contains a prefix and suffix.

We’ll take a look at some examples of some past codes that needed substitution. All codes will be in the following format:





Looking at character pairs:

44 35 26 30 44 53 26 44 12 43 18

There are 11 pairs of numbers in the code. Looking at the numbers position in the passcode format, we see they are greater than the other positions except the middle pair. We’ll try translating the numbers from 0123456789 into 9876543210:

55 64 73 69 55 46 73 55 87 56 81

We are left with this after a decimal to ASCII translation:


64 is just one away from 65 which would make it the letter A.

The proper approach would be to subtract each pair from 100. The previous method effectively subtracted each pair from 99.

56 65 74 70 56 47 74 56 88 57 82


The prefix and suffix parts of the passcode are there but the keyword is a / character. By looking for the shape on the Glyphtionary, it could be one of many glyphs:









Trying all 5 words, we’ll see that the / is representing Loss





The code looks like it is in the passcode format but reversed. So reversing it reveals:


We’ll have to search for Anderson 1936. The search on Wikipedia shows the page for Carl David Anderson who in 1936 discovered the muon. Muon is a known keyword.


Common Sense


There are two codes highlighted in this page.

Top Code



Converting the symbols to their QWERTY keyboard numeric equivalents:

2cwq3 27431 g5m8n

Searching for the numbers don’t reveal anything too useful. Looking down at the list of known keywords, we see symbol is a keyword, and it works!


Bottom Code



Trying to figure out what these 3 glyphs/words have in common would take a while and will probably lead us into a rabbit hole. Instead, substituting the keyword glyphs makes the passcode valid.






No mention of the keyword so we’ll have to use clues surrounding the given code pieces to find a keyword. The code is on a green bar that shows the Enlightened score. Green and Enlightened are keywords.


What’s next?

The next article will feature more examples of keyword substitutions.

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Code Breaking 101: Keyword Substitutions

by Jack Truong (SQL) time to read: 3 min