More dread

A scene from a surprisingly unshot screenplay…

INTERIOR:  Code room at Bletchley Park, day

Computer machinery and pieces of paper with scribbling litter the cluttered room.  ALAN TURING, male, 20s, is crouched over a notepad.  He doesn’t notice the entry of BRIGADIER NATHANIEL MACTHWAIT until he speaks

BRIGADIER

Turing!  What have you there?

TURING

Terribly sorry, Brigadier, didn’t see you come in

BRIGADIER

No problem at all, old chap.  Been quite the week, hasn’t it?  You’ve cracked the Enigma code, ensured safety for Allied messages, predicted artificial intelligence, and taught young Mr. Benaud how to bowl a googly.  Whatever next?

TURING

I guess a quickie is out of the question?

BRIGADIER

It certainly is, Turing, it certainly is.  That’ll get you into trouble, you know?

TURING

Well Brigadier, I’ve been working on a new code, but I don’t think you want to see it

BRIGADIER

Whyever not?

TURING

I fear it makes no sense and will just frustrate the men even more sir

BRIGADIER

How does it work?

TURING

I noticed that you can make a square using all the letters in the alphabet

BRIGADIER

Hate to stop you there, young Alan, but there’s 26 letters in the alphabet

TURING

True, sir.  But we don’t use J much do we?

BRIGADIER

Don’t think I’ve ever used it in my life.  Carry on

TURING

We come up with a code word, but it can’t have any repeated letters.  Then put the rest of the alphabet in the remaining squares.

BRIGADIER

And how does this make a code?

TURING

You break up words into two letters at a time

BRIGADIER

But what about words with odd number of letters?

TURING

You’ll just have to avoid using them.  Every odd-letter-numbered word has an equally useful even-numbered word.  AIRCRAFT instead of PLANE, STUPID instead of IDIOTIC, BORING instead of TEDIOUS

BRIGADIER

So all our messages will have to have no J’s in them and only use even numbered letters of words

TURING

Yes, sir.  So when you want to encode a word, you use the two letters at opposite ends of a rectangle formed by the letters

BRIGADIER

I suppose now you’re going to tell me I can’t use words with two letters on the same line next to each other?

TURING

That was my original idea, but now I think we can just move the letters one space to the right… or up and down

BRIGADIER

Wrapping around the edges?

TURING

Wrapping around the edges, as it were

BRIGADIER

Turing, this has got to be the most obtuse, convoluted and repugnant code ever made.  What do you call it?

TURING

I was thinking of Playfair

BRIGADIER

You’re mad, Turing!  Mad!  There’s nothing play nor fair about it?  I insist you cover up this cipher at once.  It’s horrible!  No man must ever see it.

TURING (downcast)

Understood sir.

BRIGADIER

Good man.  Now about that quickie…

 

Count me among the target audience for this, I guess.  I do hate using Playfair codes, and the only puzzle I actually “solved” that had a playfair code, I did it by the solver in Quninapaulus.  So as soon as I saw the little square, I was ready to tear up the grid and resolve myself to a week without a Listener.

Mordred’s last Listener was just before I started this blog, though I thought I had done a Mordred puzzle somewhere before.  I started this on the worst flight I have had in a long time – I was going to a conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.  There’s a stereotype of the Louisianian as as gumboot-wearing, sweaty, thick hick, and I was wedged right in next to one who I think was blissfully unaware that I needed a little bit of seat.  I’m not the smallest person in the world, but I was perched on the edge of the seat and twisted about 60 degrees to minimize surface-to-surface contact.  I was just able to prop Bradford’s under the crossword.

What can I say?  All clues normal, all words in the grid (at least before the moving) normal, it was just down to solving and finding the “playfair” square.  WORDPLAY jumped out at me, and it was before the flight landed that I had figured out WORDPLAY GIVES FUN as the three-word code.  I was pretty impressed that there was only one of the rest of the 9 letters scattered somewhere in the grid, which means Mordred set a challenge of a grid with only one T.  I was kind of hoping the replacement scheme left real words but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

I didn’t get back from New Orleans in time to submit this, so it was two missed submission weeks in a row, sorry Mordred.  It was fun while it lasted, and was probably the closest I will get to actually enjoying something involving a Playfair.

My working grid for Listener Crossword  4236 - Oh No Not Another Playfair! By MordredI think I can call this one a Victory to George – putting me at 9-3-2 and finally getting things back in order.

Feel free to tell me why my screenplay was never picked up, and see you next week when Schadenfreude pays back his slaves.

 

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5 Responses

  1. Literally the finest crossword write-up ever. Loved it.

  2. Thanks – I couldn’t resist.

  3. Touché, George!

  4. Thanks Dave!

  5. […] Nutmeg time!  I’ve added Nutmeg to the list of tagged setters so you can clicky to see all the battles.  I’ve found Nutmeg’s previous puzzles to take a fair bit of time.  However this came out when I was in Canada at a conference (printed it the last morning of the conference) and the conspiuousness was that little square grid. It’s a bloody Playfair! […]

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