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Coded Message by The Tall’n

Posted by shirleycurran on 4 September 2015

‘Cipher’, we read in the preamble and had visions of some code-breaking that was going to cause us immense frustration. There was that adjective ‘simple’, and, indeed we were lucky as the first four clues we solved gave us the letters BLET, encoded to EOHW and not only had we worked out the cipher (move three letters on in the alphabet – simple indeed), but we also had the theme. I tentatively wrote BLETCHLEY PARK down the centre column, while the otheg 001r numpty triumphantly announced, “Yes, that’s it because clue 32ac is a real gift, 11 across, eg, advanced local network (4)’ That’s ALAN, so that unclued light is going to be TURING and ENIGMA is going to be somewhere in the grid, probably that bottom right unclued light, as it’s the right length”.

Of course, I had scanned the clues to confirm that The Tall’n retains his place in the Listener Topers’ Club, and I had found rather a lot of strange dietary choices; sucking fish, pie sprinkled with oil, sesame, honey, yoghurt and some rather queer protein. However, the diet was redeemed by ‘Spirit held over in perikaryon (4)’ (I wonder how The Tall’n slipped that fearful surface-reading past the editors! Bit of a gift, though with RAKI<) and ‘After a brief month judge returns to drink in large draughts (4)’ (GLUG encoded to JUL(y) + J<)

Having the cipher at our fingertips made the solving relatively easy, as the Tall’n’s clues were very generous and we could work backwards from either the definition to the wordplay or the inverse. It was usually the definition that gave us the solution, as that produced real words that seemed to be spelling out the ten-word message for us, whereas the wordplay produced some very strange entries; MOVSAG we got when we sorted out the wordplay of a clue that had given us MOSSAD as its solution (Intelligence service takes action ignoring English area government (6)) and the Irish Island (INCH) changed to INCK when it ‘excited Nick’.

Tall 'nWe teased the message out of the grid that had appeared as a result of the definition parts of clues; UNGIRT (which was clearly one of the three scrambled words giving us TURING) IN HUT EIGHT, BLETCHLEY PARK, USING ‘MOBBE’ (yes, we know that the machine built to decipher Enigma was named BOMBE because of its ticking, so clearly this was another of the scrambles) DECODED ‘GAMINE’ (no problem with that either!) Thus our solution was complete with the cipher actually helping, rather than hindering the solve, though I now had to back-solve to understand how I had produced XRINAL/URINAL, for example (During loose uprising, run for Highlanders, where men go for relief (6) = LAX< round RIN) and several other strange examples of wordplay. “Why”, I asked, “did we need the ciphers at all?” But the answer was obvious – they were good fun and they were clearly thematic – that was what it was all about!

We hadn’t quite finished. ‘Finally solvers must highlight a six-letter word that was sent in deceptive messages towards the end of the war.’ Of course CALAIS was staring at us and we know about decoy messages that convinced Hitler that the Normandy landings were going to be in the Pas de Calais though we were not convinced that they were sent by Enigma. Still, that seemed to be the most appropriate word to highlight. Most enjoyable, thank you, The Tall’n.


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