Posts Tagged ‘crossword’

Keira Knightley beaten by quick crossword despite playing wartime codebreaker

October 9th, 2014

Her character was among the recruits to the secret project who had actually been brought on board after showing their ability by completing a cryptic crossword.

Knightley said: “One day we decided we should all really do the crossword. So we got the quick crossword, there were five of us, it took us five days, and we still didn’t finish it. We were really bad at all of it. And I didn’t understand any of the maths.”

Knightley and Cumberbatch answered with a resounding ‘no’ when asked if their Sudoku skills had improved, although Cumberbatch explained that as much as he didn’t understand the intricate details of the mathematics Turing was working with to create the enigma, he did find the experience fascinating.

“I think there are hugely exciting things on a basic level that everyone can understand,’ the actor said.

“Like the idea of coding, the idea of programming, the idea that what you use as language can be turned into something universal and can be used here, China, Russia, and those things excite me.”

“But the machine, the bomb, the reality of Bletchley Park, that was the moment that I thought right now this is very hard.’

He added: “I did understand a bit, a bit about the enigma machine and the coding but put an algorithm in front of me now, or a quadratic equation and this press conference would never end for me trying to work it out.”

The Imitation Game kicks off this year’s BFI London Film Festival, and the two stars gathered at the Corinthia Hotel on Wednesday to talk about the movie.

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Can you solve the Telegraph’s D-Day crossword?

May 3rd, 2014

On May 2, 1944, Telegraph readers probably had rather more on their minds than the crossword, but no doubt many turned to it for a bit of light relief and a mental workout. What did the compiler have in store for them on that Tuesday morning?

The challenges of a Telegraph crossword 70 years ago were rather different to those of today. They were certainly more diverse. General knowledge clues nestled beside anagrams; riddles, or cryptic definitions, were to be found alongside quotations. Like today, there were hidden words, homophones, double definitions and wordplay, but in a much looser format. It was a very mixed bag.

But on that day of the Second World War, the crossword had a little extra puzzle for anyone who knew about the plans for an Allied invasion of Normandy: one of the answers was the codename for a D-Day landing beach. As the invasion drew nearer, four more codenames appeared, until MI5 quietly stepped in and took the compiler, Leonard Dawe, in for questioning.

Mr Dawe was the headmaster of a boys’ grammar school that had been evacuated from south London to Effingham in Surrey. He used to challenge his pupils to suggest words to fit his crossword grids — and one Ronald French later admitted that he inserted the D-Day codewords, which he had heard from American troops stationed nearby. Mr Dawe knew nothing about it.

With the revival of interest in the story on its 70th if they could have a go at solving the puzzles themselves. I wonder what you will make of them. I recently had the pleasure of selecting 100 classic Telegraph puzzles to mark 100 years of the crossword. All the D-Day puzzles appear in The Telegraph Centenary Crossword Collection, along with landmarks such as our first crossword and personal favourites by compilers including The Sunday Telegraph’s marvellous Brian Greer.

I found it fascinating to try to think like a solver of the 1940s. Were they more literary than us? The compilers did like their poetic quotations. Were they better at lateral thinking? Some of these riddles certainly require a leap of the imagination.

There are a few answers that you may never have come across. There is one that we would not carry today as we are more sensitive — or less robust — about possible racial insults.

I hope you are as tickled by some of these clues as I was: the English town that is prepared for floods (6 letters); the man who’s like a curate’s egg, good in parts (5)…

And if you come across any codenames we’ve overlooked, please don’t call MI5.

D-Day crossword number one is printed below. Click on the links beneath the puzzle for the full collection, which can be printed out.

D-Day crossword number one

D-Day crossword number two

D-Day crossword number three

D-Day crossword number four

D-Day crossword number five


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Who put secret D-Day clues in the ‘Telegraph’ crossword?

April 27th, 2014

When the boys heard of the scandal, they were appalled. “We were astonished at the thought that Dawe was a traitor. He was a member of the local golf club. It was a complete mystery to most of us.”

Dawe did little to dispel the mystery when he returned to the school a few days later. He resumed setting crosswords, and said nothing at all about the incident for more than a decade.

Then, in a BBC interview in 1958, he described the ordeal. “They turned me inside out and collected naval intelligence. They went to Bury St Edmunds where my senior colleague Melville Jones [the paper’s other crossword compiler] was living and put him through the works.” Despite their suspicions, Dawe explained that the interrogators “eventually decided not to shoot us after all”.

It took another three decades for an apparent explanation to emerge. As part of the commemorations for the 40th anniversary of D-Day, the Telegraph revisited the crossword saga. Bill Deedes, then the paper’s editor, was alarmed by the scandal afresh, and instructed the puzzles editor to check that no codewords relating to the Falklands had appeared in the crossword during the recent conflict. None was found.

A few days later, Ronald French, another Old Strandian who had been encouraged by the renewed interest, wrote to the paper to admit to inserting the clues himself. Dawe, it emerged, would invite his pupils to fill in his blank crosswords with any words that came to mind. He would later devise clues to match the boys’ solutions.

With the war at its height, the excitable teenagers were obsessed by the vocabulary of the era, which is why other solutions of the time included “warden”, “Poland”, “aircraft” and “disarm”.

Likewise, the codewords were no coincidence. US and Canadian soldiers preparing for D-Day were camped close to the school, and the boys would regularly mix with them.

“The soldiers were obviously lonely,” recalls Bryan Belfont, a year below French. “Many had children of their own, and they more or less adopted us. We’d sit and chat and they’d give us chocolate.”

It was during one of these conversations that French heard the codewords. Security was remarkably lax, and he had struck up close friendships with the soldiers, regularly taking the colonel’s dog for a walk and even, on one occasion, driving a tank.

“Everyone knew the outline invasion plan and they knew the codewords,” he explained. “Omaha and Utah were the beaches, and they knew the names but not the locations. We all knew the operation was called Overlord.”

Perhaps to show off his knowledge, he slipped these words into the crossword. He bitterly regretted it, however, once he learnt of the trouble he had caused.

“Soon after D-Day, Dawe sent for me and asked me where I had got the words from. I told him and he asked to see my notebooks. He was horrified and said that the books must be burnt at once.

“He then gave me a stern lecture about national security and made me swear that I would tell no one about the matter. I have kept to that oath until now.”

Even French’s son, Simon, knew nothing of the affair until his father wrote to the Telegraph. “At the time, it was quite a scare for him,” he says now. “He was genuinely worried about what might happen, and whether he would cost the headmaster his job. But when it came out, he was quite proud of being involved.”

Ronald French retained his youthful enthusiasm for words, and continued to complete the Telegraph’s crossword every day until his death a few years ago.

One riddle remains, however. Nearly two years before the D-Day affair, on 18 August 1942, “Dieppe” was one of the paper’s crossword solutions. A day later, a disastrous raid took place on the port, with 3,623 of the 6,086 men who made it ashore killed, wounded or captured.

At the time, a War Office investigation concluded that the incident was “a remarkable coincidence”. Given what we now know about the later episode, this judgment seems open to question.

Perhaps one day someone will figure it out. For now, all these years later, Dawe’s crosswords remain cryptic.

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