A Puzzly Discovery Under the Sea!

We’ve talked quite a bit about the importance of Enigma machines in the past.

The quest to crack the unbreakable Nazi code machine spanned the Atlantic Ocean and resulted in never-before-seen collaborations between analysts, codebreakers, and puzzlers from all walks of life, dedicating hours upon hours every day to trying to unravel the secrets of German communications. Cracking the code would be the key to intercepting crucial information and outmaneuvering the Nazi war machine.

We’ve discussed those twin decryption locations — Arlington Hall in the US and Bletchley Park in the UK — as well as the efforts of codebreakers like Elizebeth Smith Friedman to dismantle the work of Nazi spymasters both during and after World War II.

The story of Alan Turing is inextricably linked with that of the Enigma device, even though there were three Polish mathematicians — Rejewski, Rózycki & Zygalski — who had already demonstrated that the Nazi code was breakable and even managed to reverse engineer an Enigma machine.

Strangely, we rarely talk about the Enigma machines themselves. They were dangerously efficient, as explained in this article from Atlas Obscura:

When the Nazis needed to send confidential messages, they entered the dispatches into the machine, which substituted every letter using a system of three or four rotors and a reflector, encrypting the message for a recipient Enigma machine to decode.

Getting Allied hands on one during the war was a top priority, so much so that the standing orders on German ships and U-boats was to throw them overboard and let the sea claim them, rather than risking the chance of the Allies getting ahold of one.

underwater enigma

But the sea doesn’t always keep secrets forever, and a recent dive by a marine biologist team discovered the remains of an Enigma machine in the Bay of Gelting:

He noticed a contraption tangled up in the fishing line the crew had headed down to collect. The device, which at first seemed like an old typewriter sitting under at least 30 feet of water, was a Nazi Enigma machine, likely one of hundreds abandoned and thrown overboard in the dying days of the German war effort.

And those devices still contain valuable information decades later.

Each Enigma machine has a serial number, and if this machine’s number is still legible after decades underwater, it could reveal which ship or Nazi unit the Enigma machine belonged to. This would allow researchers to track the use of the device and what impact its use or its absence had on the war effort overall.

Yes, it’s not just mussels and fish that call this device home, but a readily accessible history of the device itself, if we can only read it.

underwater enigma 2

And now, instead of being protected at all costs by German officers, this machine is now protected by archaeologists and researchers, sitting in a tank of demineralized water in order to flush out the salt and salt water that has so corroded the machine over time. It will spend almost a year in that tank before any restoration efforts can proceed.

Successful recoveries of these machines are understandably rare, and this is a chance to add to the historical record of codebreaking and puzzling during World War II. Here’s hoping we can stumble upon more of these lost treasures in the future.


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Cinematic Crossword Codecracking edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to revisit one of my favorite puzzle constructors, David Kwong!

[Check out David’s session of 5 Questions here.]

Not only is he a topnotch constructor, he’s also a magician who performs his own signature tricks while consulting for film projects and television shows. He’s worked on The Mindy Project, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and Now You See Me (as well as the upcoming sequel).

And his latest collaborative efforts just hit theaters yesterday in The Imitation Game, the Benedict Cumberbatch/Keira Knightley film detailing Alan Turing’s efforts at Bletchley Park to break the infamous German Enigma Code during World War II.

But it was David’s crossword skills on display this time around, as he constructed the crossword Alan Turing uses in the film to test potential cryptographers in the movie.

I don’t have that crossword for you to solve, unfortunately, but thanks to The New York Times and Deb Amlen’s Wordplay blog, I can offer you a link to an actual crossword Alan Turing created for The Telegraph.

Plus, the official website for The Imitation Game has a puzzle you can solve to unlock exclusive content. (Just click the link and then click “Crack the code” in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.)

The film is already being hailed as one of the best of the year. I can’t wait to see what David works on next.

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How about some efficient German puzzles?

A friend of mine passed me a copy of a German puzzle book, and I thought it would neat to share some overseas puzzle fun with my fellow puzzle fiends.

Now, I have to admit that I’m slightly biased here. German is my favorite language that I don’t speak — how could it not be with words like “backpfeifengesicht,” meaning “a face deserving of a good hard smack.” — and I simply love that you can jam together words in order to form new words for any and all occasions. It’s a marvelously adaptable language.

You might be familiar with the word “weltschmerz,” which means a sort of sentimental pessimism or melancholy over the state of the world. It translates from the German for “world pain.”

But when you add the prefix paleo- to the word, you get paleoweltschmerz, the theory that the dinosaurs became extinct through sheer boredom with the world.

Yup, it wasn’t a meteor, it was ennui. How great is that?

Anyway, let’s get to the puzzles! [Click each puzzle pic for a larger version!]

Here we have German versions of a Codeword puzzle and a Framework. It’s a little jarring to see recognizable words like MAXIMUM and MOHAIR amidst so many unfamiliar ones.

Here’s another Codeword and a logic puzzle. (As a side note, I would totally watch a movie entitled Das Logical.)

This German word seek is awesome, if only for the incredibly long words being accommodated. I don’t think I’ll ever manage to get “Ypsilonwachtel” into a word seek grid.

We’ve got an interesting symbolic math puzzle, and another Framework, plus what appears to be a deduction puzzle with repeated letters. (A deduction puzzle with EXTRA SCHWER, by the way. Which is terrific, as there’s been a shortage of SCHWER around here for a few weeks now.)

If I can obtain more international puzzles, maybe this could be a running series of posts, making PuzzleNation a little more PuzzleInternational. =)