June 2:  D-Day Crossword

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 country 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 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
Elements on the Periodic Table
(Common Core Language)

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

1 – National Geographic



August 26: Will Shortz Day

Today is the birthday of Will Shortz, the crossword editor of The New York Times.

Shortz was born in 1952 in Indiana and attended Indiana University, studying Enigmatology, the study of puzzles. To earn his degree, Shortz had to persuade his professors that puzzles were a legitimate course of study. Once he got the go ahead, he then designed his own curriculum. Completing his degree in 1974, is the only person in the world with a degree in the field.

Shortz’s studies did not go to waste. He is the former editor of Games magazine and the current director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, which he founded in 1978. In addition to his work with The New York Times, Shortz has been heard each week on National Public Radio stations since 1987, where he is known as the Puzzle-Master (1).

In 2006 a documentary called Wordplay profiled Shortz and his passion for crossword puzzles.

The following synopsis of the film is from the Wordplay movie site:

WORDPLAY focuses on the man most associated with crossword puzzles, New York Times puzzle editor and NPR puzzle-master Will Shortz. Director Patrick Creadon introduces us to this passionate hero, and to the inner workings of his brilliant and often hilarious contributors, including syndicated puzzle creator Merl Reagle.

Along the way, the film presents interviews with celebrity crossword puzzlers such as Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, Mike Mussina and the Indigo Girls, who reveal their process, insight and the allure of the game. In addition to deconstructing this uniquely American institution, Wordplay takes us though the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament where almost five hundred competitors battled it out for the title “Crossword Champ” and showed their true colors along the way (1).

Today’s Challenge: Crosswords Shortz-cuts
Below are definitions of words that commonly appear in crossword puzzles, but they are not necessarily common in everyday speech. Given the clues below, see if you can come up with the words.

1. 4 letters: A solo vocal piece with instrumental accompaniment, as in an opera.

2. 5 letters: The main trunk of the systemic arteries carrying blood from the left side of the heart to the arteries of all limbs and organs except the lungs.

3. 3 letters: A gradual decline or the outward flow of the tide.

4. 4 letters: A mild, yellow Dutch cheese, pressed into balls and usually covered with red wax.

5. 5 letters: Any of several large sea ducks especially of the genus Somateria of northern regions, having soft, commercially valuable down and predominantly black and white plumage in the male.

6. 3 letters: An indefinitely long period of time; an age.

7. 4 letters: A fencing sword with a bowl-shaped guard and a long, narrow fluted blade that has no cutting edge or tapers to a blunted point.

8. 3 letters: A female sheep, especially when full grown.

9. 4 letters: A pitcher, especially a decorative one with a base, an oval body, and a flaring spout.

10. 4 letters: A very small amount; a bit.

11. 3 letters: A strong desire or inclination; a yearning or craving (1).

Quote of the Day: We try to do a Shakespeare play every year, because I feel that it provides the best tool for actor training. It’s challenging in performance and language, physicality, analytical skills, and this particular one is along the serious lines, which seemed to fit the bill in terms of the kind of genre we wanted to explore. I call this the Sunday Times Crossword Puzzle for actors. —Jack Cirillo

Answers: 1. aria 2. aorta 3. ebb 4. edam 5. eider 6. eon 7. epee 8. ewe 9. ewer 10. iota 11. yen

1 – “Will Shortz Biography.” NPR.

2 – http://www.wordplaythemovie.com/.