They’re entirely losing it, aren’t they?

As the Venezuelan government attempts to quell opposition protests that it claims are part of plot to overthrow it, official suspicion has landed on an unlikely hotbed of conspiracy: the crossword department of regional newspaper El Aragüeño.

Delcy Rodríguez, the minister for communication and information, said she had requested an investigation into the daily from the state of Aragua, accusing it of hiding messages “linked to conspiracy” in its crosswords.

“The El Aragüeño daily is sending coded messages linked to conspiracy and violence in its crosswords. We have requested an investigation,” she said.

Ms Rodríguez did not give details of exactly what messages had been detected in the crosswords.

21 thoughts on “They’re entirely losing it, aren’t they?”

  1. If it wasn’t so tragic it would be funny.

    And it is not even (or wasn’t even) a poor country. Will the right lessons be learnt here?

    Given certain ‘politicians” earlier gushing over the former ruler and his plans for a Bolivarian paradise, methinks that the chances are slim, cigarette paper slim.

  2. When they start ‘arresting’ pigeons, eagles, vultures and other creatures as Israeli spies, as the Arab countries are won’t to do, they will have…

  3. SMFS – Racist Scrabble! Brilliant!

    And “jigaboo”, classic. Haven’t heard that one in donkeys.

    I like my racism to be old-timey and vintage. It’s far more thoughtful than this rubbish modern racism.

    What’s next? I have noticed a shocking lack of diversity in Cluedo.

    And you just know that Mr. Monopoly is a racist, because he looks like one. We know who he wants to “go to jail”.

  4. War on words – the crossword panic of May 1944

    During World War II, newspapers such as the Telegraph played a vital role in informing the population of the latest developments on the home front and on the battlefields. In addition, despite its reduced size during this time, the Telegraph continued to print the popular daily crossword puzzle. This no doubt provided a welcome break from the hardships of wartime Britain and helped people pass the time in air-raid shelters across the capital. However, during this time the Telegraph’s puzzles started attracting the attention of MI5, Britain’s counter espionage service.

    Whilst completing the Telegraph’s daily crossword, members of MI5 came across a four letter word – Utah. An innocuous enough word in itself, but a word full of meaning to the men of the 4th US Assault Division. Utah was the code name for the beach they were planning to take on D-Day.

    In previous months the solution words Juno, Gold and Sword (all code names assigned to the operation) had appeared but had not sparked any interest from MI5. This was because they are common words in crosswords.

    MI5’s curiosity was further aroused when the Telegraph printed the clue ‘Red Indian on the Missouri (5)’. The solution to this was Omaha – code name for the D-Day beach to be taken by the 1st US Assault Division.

    Then on Saturday, May 27 Overlord appeared as a solution and this was the code name for the whole D-Day operation. On May 30, Mulberry was featured – the code name for the floating harbours used in the landings; and finally, on June 1, Neptune was included – code word for the naval assault phase.

    The Telegraph had MI5’s full attention now. Officers were sent to interview Leonard Dawe, the Telegraph’s crossword compiler and creator of the offending puzzles. Dawe was headmaster of the Strand School, which had been evacuated from London to Effingham, Surrey.

    MI5 officers confronted Dawe and demanded to know why he had hidden these telling words within his crossword solutions. Years later Dawe said: “They turned me inside out. They went to Bury St Edmunds where my senior colleague Melville Jones (the paper’s other crossword compiler) was living and put him through the works. But they eventually decided not to shoot us after all.”

    MI5 never found a satisfactory explanation; coincidence was used as an explanation. However, as every solver knows an unsolved puzzle is always intriguing, and since then clues have emerged.

    Richard Wallington, a pupil at the Strand School in 1944 tells that “…there is no doubt that boys heard these code words being bandied about and innocently passed them on”. This is supported by another ex-pupil, Ronald French, who claimed that he had learned of the code words from Canadian and American soldiers camped close by the school, awaiting the invasion. Seemingly, it had been Dawe’s habit to invite pupils into his study and ask them to fill out solutions in a crossword grid, inventing the clues himself afterwards.

    Surely, a backwards solution to a cunning conundrum!

  5. So Much for Subtlety

    Steve – “Racist Scrabble! Brilliant!”

    Well we have had racist nursery rhymes so I suppose that Scrabble boards can’t be too far behind.

    “And “jigaboo”, classic. Haven’t heard that one in donkeys.”

    Don’t think I have ever heard it. In real life.

    “I like my racism to be old-timey and vintage. It’s far more thoughtful than this rubbish modern racism.”

    Absolutely. I am with Homer Simpson here – I like my Gays *flaming* and my racism more or less the same way. I don’t care much for all this secret code word and special Gnostic interpretation that the modern young ‘uns go in for.

    “What’s next? I have noticed a shocking lack of diversity in Cluedo.”

    Given we have already reached this point with Midsummers murders, Cluedo can’t be far behind – except your not allowed to show any criminals as Black but the Police Captain has to be. Which is ironic because in most US cities with Black police captains virtually no crimes are solved.

    “And you just know that Mr. Monopoly is a racist, because he looks like one. We know who he wants to “go to jail”.”

    Unfettered capitalist too. I am sure there is a Leftist version of Monopoly. I wonder if it features mass murder of peasants.

  6. @JG
    With the possible exception of Mulberry, it shows the remarkable stupidity of wartime military planners using “code words” bear such an obvious relationship to the items they’re supposed to be encoding..

  7. Interestingly, Monopoly was first designed as an anti-capitalist game. Or at least anti-rentier.

  8. So Much for Subtlety

    Tim Worstall – “Interestingly, Monopoly was first designed as an anti-capitalist game. Or at least anti-rentier.”

    Wasn’t it the work of one of Henry George’s followers? So not so much anti-capitalist as anti-landowner?

    Perhaps one of the more interesting misjudgements of history. Not as bad as the Romanian Communists allowing Dallas to be shown, thinking it an indictment of American capitalism ….

  9. Bloke no longer in Austria


    i beg to differ – Utah and Omaha have no suggestion apart from them being something to do with the Yanks. Even then, what are you going to suppose: assault by the 23rd Mormon Divison or the 102nd Western “B” Movie Actors Brigade ? Juno, Sword and Gold sound like destroyers.

    Overlord should raise eyebrows and its precursors were Roundup and Sledgehammer, so I guess you’re right on that one 🙂 And that was largely down to the Americans anyway. They tended to take leaves out of the German book on Wagnerian operation names.

    Bomber Harris was the worst offender, but he pinched the names “Millennium” and “Gommorrah” to make a point about “burning out the black heart” of the enemy.

  10. Ideally secret military codenames would be taken at random and carry no obvious martial connotations. But then nobody wants to be remembered as the man.who commanded Operation French Tickler.

  11. True story:

    A previous employer had a top-secret project that was in all the senior managers’ diaries under the name “Alderaan”.

    The Star Wars geeks knew that Alderaan was the first planet to be destroyed by the Death Star.

    It therefore came as no surprise to them when the final outcome of Project Alderaan was a massive amount of job losses.

  12. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Steve: Churchill, in a 1943 memo to “Pug” Ismay had this to say on the matter

    “Operations in which large numbers of men may lose their lives ought not to be decided by code-words that imply a boastful and over-confident sentiment, such as ‘Triumphant,’ or conversely, which are calculated to invest the plan with an air of despondency, such as ‘Woebetide’ and ‘Flimsy.’ They ought not to be names of a frivolous character, such as ‘Bunnyhug’ and ‘Ballyhoo.’ They should not be ordinary words often used in other connections, such as ‘Flood,’ ‘Sudden,’ and ‘Supreme.’ Names of living people, ministers or commanders‹should be avoided. Intelligent thought will already supply an unlimited number of well-sounding names that do not suggest the character of the operation or disparage it in any way and do not enable some widow or mother to say that her son was killed in an operation called ‘Bunnyhug’ or ‘Ballyhoo.’ Proper names are good in this field. The heroes of antiquity, figures from Greek and Roman mythology, the constellations and stars, famous racehorses, names of British and American war heroes, could be used, provided they fall within the rules above.”

  13. So Much for Subtlety

    Steve – “Ideally secret military codenames would be taken at random and carry no obvious martial connotations. But then nobody wants to be remembered as the man.who commanded Operation French Tickler.”

    After the war Britain did this. They used colour codes. Every military project, more or less, had to have a colour and then a random word. Thus we got Britain’s space effort involving Black Prince and Blue Steel. As well as some oddities – like Purple Possum which was actually a chemical nerve agent.

    It must have been pretty embarrassing when you had to get on the radio and tell HQ that your Yellow Duckling wasn’t working. Still it did give up Blue Peacock. Which remains the world’s only chicken powered nuclear land mine. That I know of.

  14. @BiCR
    Isn’t Churchill losing the point of code words, there? They are supposed to obscure what they represent. Thus a NAAFI menu requisition should be indistinguishable from an airborne assault. “Heroes of antiquity, figures from Greek and Roman mythology,…names of British and American war heroes” are hardly going to refer to lavatory paper supply. Which is what you’d wish them to.

  15. I can see Churchill’s point though. Ideally codewords should be random, but even constraining the namespace as Churchill did should still allow a lot of random selection to occur. It’s not as if English has a thin vocabulary.

  16. Surreptitious Evil

    Modern British codewords are random – taken from a list, although you are allowed to reject a number. Hence Corporate (Falklands), Granby (1st Gulf), Telic (2nd Gulf / Iraq) & Herrick (Afghanistan) from among the more widely known ones.

    The assistance for the recent flooding was Op Pitchpole. The only recent one that wasn’t done this way was Op Olympics, which was exactly what it says on the tin.

  17. Fishcake and toadstool were, famously, featured in “Dance to the Music of Time”.

    And I believe the current disastrous soon-to-end-in-abject-defeat British folly in Afghanistan rejoices in the code name of “Herrick”.

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