By Kawika Pierson

Each of the numbered entries is a quote from a famous person encoded with a simple cipher. The first step in solving the puzzle is to identify each cipher and decode each quote. The correct ciphers, quotes, and people for the entries are:

Entry Cipher Quote Person
1 Atbash Maoists want a directly elected president, but this will give birth to an autocrat. Sushil Koirala
2 Grafton novels When a man spends his relief checks on green whiskey his children have a way of crying from hunger pains. Harper Lee
3 Navajo I never, never in my life took a course in economics. Lloyd Shapley
4 Matoran (Bionicle) alphabet Most of my life I feel I have been Unicycling at the Edge of the Abyss. Jon Polito
5 Alien Language 1 from Futurama I do take my work seriously and the way to do that is not to take yourself too seriously. Alan Rickman
6 Moon type You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, Look at that, you son of a bitch. Edgar Mitchell
7 HTML entities Now this first SLIIIDE... shows a very, very interesting thing: our main building. George Gaynes
8 Wingdings Just say no! Nancy Reagan
9 Polybius square I been getting good crowds. It only took 50 years. Mose Allison
10 Caesar shift by 2 We were not able to realize that with the machete you can create a genocide. Boutros Boutros-Ghali
11 Hexadecimal-encoded Unicode codepoints Many of the problems which we face today are the eventual result of short-run measures taken as long as two or three decades ago. Jay Wright Forrester
12 Octal-encoded Unicode codepoints Me dio hasta vergüenza decir que esta obra era mía. Sixto Durán Ballén
13 Gold-Bug cipher I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house. Zsa Zsa Gabor
14 Daedric alphabet I got two words for you; You Suck! Chyna
15 Dancing Men code Life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last. Prince
16 Morse code If science is to advance, some sacrifices must be made. Bernard Fox
17 Base64 As I said earlier, there are no writers who could create a literary vision of the new reality. Andrzej Wajda
18 Telephone Number to Letter Self-awareness and self-esteem. Those aren’t female issues, those are human issues. Curtis Hanson
19 Music Sheet Cipher I swear I won’t tease you. George Michael

All of these people share a common fate—they all died in 2016. The flavor text is also encoded with a simple cipher: it uses the digits 01-26 to encode letters. Decoding the message yields TODAY IS A GOOD DAY TO DIE, which suggests that the days on which these people died will be important.

Taking the day of the month on which each person died as indexes into the alphabet gives:

Person Death Day Letter
Sushil Koirala 9 I
Harper Lee 19 S
Lloyd Shapley 12 L
Jon Polito 1 A
Alan Rickman 14 N
Edgar Mitchell 4 D
George Gaynes 15 O
Nancy Reagan 6 F
Mose Allison 15 O
Boutros Boutros-Ghali 16 P
Jay Wright Forrester 16 P
Sixto Durán Ballén 15 O
Zsa Zsa Gabor 18 R
Chyna 20 T
Prince 21 U
Bernard Fox 14 N
Andrzej Wajda 9 I
Curtis Hanson 20 T
George Michael 25 Y

Reading these in order gives the answer, ISLAND OF OPPORTUNITY