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[Edited June 19] I wrote this post on Wednesday before the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. I liked it, then, but it feels kind of trivial now. My nerdy friends will like it, though, so I’ll dedicate this post to the memory of Cynthia Hurd, a librarian who died that night. Her brother described her this way: “She was a nerd. She was a librarian.”
One of our favorite days in England was our day trip to Bletchley Park where British codebreakers (including many women) worked in secrecy to break enemy codes during World War II. The most famous code to be broken at Bletchley Park was Enigma, a story told recently in the movie The Imitation Game featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing.
While we were at Bletchley Park, I took photos of several books we wanted. By that point in the trip, we were worried about over-filling our suitcases, so we weren’t buying every book we wanted. Among the books that I ordered directly from Bletchley Park on our return were these two puzzle books:
The logic puzzles are the same type that I worked in high school when I was bored in class. I discovered codeword puzzles in the newspapers when we were in England. They have a crossword grid, but with a number in every square. Each number corresponds to a different letter. The challenge is to work out that correspondence given just three letters.
From the introduction to the puzzle books, we learn why Bletchley Park and puzzles go together:
During World War Two, Bletchley Park was a workplace to thousands of people whose job it was to read the encrypted messages of its enemies. Towards the end of 1941, a crossword puzzle competition was organised by the Daily Telegraph. The challenge was to complete the puzzle in under 12 minutes. A Mr Gavin, Chairman of the Eccentrics Club offered to donate £100 to the Minesweepers Fund, if it could be done under controlled conditions. As a number of the competitors were subsequently invited to take part in intelligence work at Bletchley Park, puzzles and Codebreaking have been linked in the public mind ever since the exploits of Bletchley Park’s Codebreakers became public knowledge. p 4.
You’ll note that I didn’t order a crossword puzzle book from Bletchley Park. I don’t get British-style crossword puzzles at all. The grids are simpler, but the clues are riddles. Do any of my American readers work British-style (aka cryptic) crosswords? Any tips on how to learn to do them without quitting in frustration?
I was going to link to Bletchley Park above, but I want you all to have the pleasure of seeing what happens when you put the words Bletchley Park in Google — watch the right-hand column.