This similar previous question established that in A Scandal in Belgravia Irene Adler's safe combination was her measurements. However, how did Sherlock know to use that combination?

Irene is naked and he's very observant, so he would have picked up on her measurements. However, how did he know to use that as the code? It may as well have been the distance apart of her curtains!

Furthermore, when Irene decides to meet him in her "battle dress" she doesn't know she's going to want Sherlock to access the safe so it's not like she could "dress" accordingly...

So, how did Sherlock know to use her measurements to open the safe?

  • Ok, but he said that the code has 6 digits? How he could possible know that when it turns out the code has only 3 repeating digits 32 24 34??
    – user9634
    May 17, 2014 at 9:41
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    What's being overlooked here is she was clueing him into a combination which, if used, would cause him to be shot. Which, when she dressed for his visit, she knew and he did not. She could choose at any time to alert him had the thugs not arrived and informed him there was a trick combination.
    – user13668
    Sep 6, 2014 at 16:46

3 Answers 3


While Irene was very distracting and a great match for Sherlock in general this only hinders his deduction ability so much.

With Irene's display to Sherlock he can then continue in the back of his mind to try to figure out what series of numbers would be important enough to her to use as a combination. Counting on the fact that she wouldn't use a random set as the possibility to forget the numbers would be detrimental. Sherlock then has to figure out what is important to her? Her birthday? Her parents age at death? The locker combination she had in the 5th grade?

Ah, but Sherlock gets a peak at something most spectacular. The one thing that gives Adler power over Sherlock, even for a brief moment. Her body. Something that seems so important to her, that drives her livelihood, her profession, something that allows her to get what she wants when she wants it.

It is also ingenious in a way. A number not easily obtained without her knowledge (except in Sherlock's case of course). A number easily remembered by her, as well as a number most people don't use much in this era in addition to a number that fits perfectly as a combination to a safe.

Sherlock realizes this as a good possibility to the combination and gives it a whirl.

  • 6
    I guess she just has to hope she doesn't put on weight!
    – Liath
    Jul 19, 2013 at 12:29
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    @Liath Someone in her profession (I'd assume at least) is very careful about their body image because that is the first thing customers see and what draws her business, whether or not they get to see the whole package.
    – Tablemaker
    Jul 19, 2013 at 12:29
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    Agreed! The only point I can see that you haven't explained is whether it was coincidence she "dressed for the occasion" Had she already decided she was going to give him the combination?
    – Liath
    Jul 19, 2013 at 13:44
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    I think when Sherlock asks her for the code earlier, she says 'I already gave it to you'. I think she'd already decided she was going to let him open the safe; but only if he was clever enough to figure it out.
    – Anthony
    Jan 31, 2014 at 6:34
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    @TylerShads +1 for answer seems like sherlock himself explaining it ... :)
    – DoctorAV
    May 26, 2014 at 10:43

He knows that it's a six-digit code from the make of the safe.

I see from the make that it's a six-digit code.

He gets a number of clues from seeing how much the keys have been pressed.

You should always use gloves with these, you know. Heaviest oil deposit is always on the first key used - that's quite clearly a three - but after that the sequence is almost impossible to read.

It can't be your birthday - no disrespect, but clearly you were born in the 80s, and 8's barely used.

After that, Irene herself clues him in. First she teases him, as he was teasing her with the hiker case:

I'd tell you the code right now, but you know what? I already have. Think.

Then after the CIA agents burst in and threaten to shoot John, she genuinely wants him to guess it. She's been forbidden from speaking, but just as the CIA man is about to count to three, Sherlock looks at her and she looks significantly and meaningfully down at her own body.

At this point, he already knows it's a six-digit code starting with 3 and comprised predominantly - probably solely - of 2s, 3s and 4s, and he knows it's something she's "told" him already. With this information, that meaningful glance was enough for Sherlock to correctly deduce that the safe code is her measurements.

Knowing which keys were most pressed probably also helped him with getting the measurements right as well (guessing 34 instead of 36 for example) as, unlike cigarette ash, women's measurements at a glance doesn't really seem like the sort of thing Sherlock would have practice at calculating.


In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backward. Sherlock is told to open the safe. He protests that he does not know the combination. Irene begins to say "Mr. Holmes doesn't ..." but is interrupted. Most people jump to the incorrect assumption that the end of her statement is "... know the code". (buzz sound) Wong. The sentences would have continued "... know where to look" a reference to there earlier conversation when Watson asks her to put something on. Perhaps a napkin. She says Watson does know where to look but suggests Holmes does not. When Holmes still does not clue in she glances down at her self, since he can not follow her logic she tries his. Once again referencing the earlier conversation when he says "fire exposes our priorities". In this case her priority is not to get shot thus needing Holmes to get the code.

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