Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Psychic Crosswords

I find myself, via BoingBoing on the Daily Telegraph's online site, reading the answer to a conundrum that I have come across from time to time: the mystery of how many of the words associated with the D-Day landings came to be in the Daily Telegraph crossword.

For years it has seemed that the crossword compiler might have been a gifted psychic, equipped with an internal radar which picked up many of the code words chosen by the powers that be for the invasions of Normandy. I had read on many occasions about the mild-mannered headmaster, questioned closely to discover how he had come to insert those codewords into the grid. Was he a spy? Was he clairvoyant?

The truth, it seems, is much more pedestrian. The boys at the evacuated school used to fraternise with the English and American soldiers in an encampment nearby, and picked up all the secret codewords by eavesdropping or asking questions. They were often asked for help in filling in the answer grid for the headmaster, who was one of the Daily Telegraphs commpilers. Thus those with their heads full of the planned invasion were more likely to use the words they had been hearing.

It seems likely that all Hitler would have needed to gain a thorough advance knowledge of the invasions was a 14 year old boy in cadet uniform.

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