Hello Nancy and Carrol,
cheeky of me to bring up code breaking without a nod to you Carrol but only thought after I mailed. Thanks Nancy do I sound too naive if I say my reading since childhood has accumulated vast numbers of odd private symbols which I learnt early on not to trouble over so much. Naked newborn babies striding the blast, a ragman drawing circles up and down the block; the patois of dig, cool, sick , drac (I think I have the historical order wrong here); and leave out the mysterious engagement with tense and personal pronoun of rap which is a different kind of private tribal symbol. I listened to a young artist being interviewed once by a doyen of the interviewing business and she became quite irritated when he wouldn't explain what his work meant. I don't recall what his work was - it wasn't corn flakes on a field blowing away or a wad of banknotes it was more traditional and not very provocative as I think i recall and he was a gentle soul who just kept deflecting not confronting as she became incandescent. It made you wonder what kind of inner reserve of ego this young man had to stay committed to no exegesis of his work. Or alternatively he was more ruthless than he sounded and it was all part of the con. Or maybe he knew it doesn't work at all if you open the code because the engagement with the code is the issue - process not resolution. Which is not to say I have some syrupy notion that there is some metaphysical stratum where all the possibilities of a line crowd waiting for the reader to align with the genius of the poet so that linear explication would ruin it all.
Carrol I loved the outline of your intellectual process with the cryptanalysis. Turing on Fibonacci and von Neuman's biological musings or the DNA story are similarly absorbing and I think more than just cyphering as Jethro Bodine would have it but I am particularly interested in one thing you said "a somewhat systematic way to look for overlaps ". Perhaps I am hopelessly relativist but that is all I am hoping for when I pick up the funny papers or Joyce or listen to John Coltrane. I of course am not expecting there is some ancient code in the Mona Lisa.