Crosswords have certainly changed the world. They’re the most popular puzzles in history, challenging the minds of millions every day and kickstarting a pencil-and-paper puzzle revolution in the process. Heck, they’ve even been used in England as part of the recruitment process for code breakers and other puzzly government positions!
But did you know that some constructors have been accused of trying to bring about actual revolutions with crosswords?
Oh yes! The Venezuelan newspaper El Aragueno has been accused on several occasions of hiding encrypted messages within their daily crossword puzzles in order to incite revolt against the government. (And a year ago, another Venezuelan newspaper, Ultimas Noticias, was accused of concealing messages ordering the assassination of a public official!)
While there are no details on what the incendiary message secretly contained within El Aragueno’s puzzle might have said, this isn’t the only time crosswords and constructors have run afoul of the powers that be.
Back in June of 1944, physics teacher and crossword constructor Leonard Dawe was questioned by authorities after several words coinciding with D-Day invasion plans appeared in London’s Daily Telegraph.
The words Omaha (codename for one of Normandy’s beaches), Utah (another Normandy beach codename), Overlord (the name for the plan to land at Normandy on June 6th), mulberry (nickname for a portable harbor built for D-Day), and Neptune (name for the naval portion of the invasion) all appeared in Daily Telegraph crosswords during the month preceding the D-Day landing.
So it was possible (though highly improbable) that Dawe was purposely trying to inform the enemy of Allied plans, and the powers that be acted accordingly. (In the end, no definitive link could be found, and consensus is that Dawe either overheard these words, possibly slipped by soldiers stationed nearby, and slipped them into his grids unwittingly, or this is simply an incredible coincidence.)
Either way, it just goes to show you how influential crosswords have been (and could be!) over the last hundred years.
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