June 2:  D-Day Crossword Day

Today is the anniversary of the publication of a crossword puzzle that might have altered the outcome of World War II. In the spring of 1944 plans were being drawn up for the Allied invasion of France. This highly secretive plan was dubbed Operation Overlord by Winston Churchill, and the invasion was set for June 5, 1944, by the commander of the operation General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The element of surprise was vital for the success of the invasion, but in May of 1944, British intelligence officers discovered that one of the Daily Telegraph’s crossword puzzles contained two important code names for the beaches of Normandy: Utah and Omaha.

The military became even more concerned when on June 2, 1944, three days before the planned invasion, a crossword puzzle appeared with the name Overlord and NeptuneNeptune was the name of the secret naval operations plan. The author of the puzzle, a schoolmaster by the name of Leonard Dawe, was arrested and questioned. Investigators were unable, however, to determine any explanation, besides coincidence, for the presence of the words in the puzzle.

Forty years after D-Day the mystery was finally solved when National Geographic discovered that one of Leonard Dawe’s pupils had been eavesdropping on the conversations of Allied soldiers and had noted the words, not for malicious reasons, but simply because he thought the words were odd enough to work well in his teacher’s crossword puzzles (1).

Today’s Challenge:  Micro-Crossword Puzzles

What are some examples of related words that have an odd number of letters and that share the same middle letter?  The following are examples of Micro-Crossword Puzzles:  two related words that each have an odd number of letters and that share the same middle letter.  This shared middle letter allows the words to be crossed.

-What are two countries with five-letter names with the middle letter I?  Answer: China and Haiti.

-Who are two Nobel Prize-winning American authors with nine-letter last names with the same middle letter N?  Answer: Steinbeck and Hemingway.

-Who are two American presidents with five-letter last names with the same middle letter A?  Answer: Grant and Obama

Write at least three of your own Micro-Crossword Puzzles.  Begin by selecting a category; then, brainstorm some words in that category.  Your words don’t have to have the same number of letters, but the two words do have to have an odd number of letters and they need to share the same middle letter.

Sample Categories:

Mythological Characters, U.S. Capitals, Literary Characters, Classic Movies, Grammar Terms, Poetry Terms, Computer Jargon, Rhetorical Devices, Holidays, Elements on the Periodic Table

(Common Core Language 1 and 2)

Quotation of the Day:  As human beings, we have a natural compulsion to fill empty spaces. -Will Shortz

1 – National Geographic. http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0206/feature1/

June 1:  Commencement Day

Today is the anniversary of a commencement address that really was not a commencement address at all. The story begins with Mary Schmich, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune. On June 1, 1997, she published a column that was so insightful that it took on a life of its own.

Somehow an urban legend evolved that Schmich’s words were a commencement address by author Kurt Vonnegut to the 1997 graduates of MIT.  The truth is, however, Vonnegut did not present a commencement address to MIT in 1997, nor did he have anything to do with the writing of Schmich’s column.

The title of Schmich’s column was Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young, and here is an excerpt:

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now. Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself . . . .

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen (1).

The word commencement comes to English via Latin. It simply means a beginning or a start. This probably explains the tone of most commencement speeches, which honor the accomplishments of graduates but focus primarily on what is to come in the real world. As a result, most commencement addresses are full of advice.

Today’s Challenge: Commence with the Advice

What advice would you give to graduates?  Imagine that have been asked to dispense commencement advice to a crowd of high school or college graduates.  What advice would you give them? As you write, select your verbs carefully. Good advice hinges on vivid, precise verbs. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  I have two last pieces of advice. First, being pre-approved for a credit card does not mean you have to apply for it. And lastly, the best career advice I can give you is to get your own TV show. It pays well, the hours are good, and you are famous. And eventually some very nice people will give you a doctorate in fine arts for doing jack squat.

–Stephen Colbert, 2006 Knox College Commencement Address

1- Schmich, Mary. Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young.  Chicago Tribune. 1 June 1997.