Friday, July 15, 2011


The place: St Andrew’s Auditorium, Bandra, Mumbai.

The Date: 1 May, 2011.

The event: The Landmark Quiz.

The question: What is common to WW II, Utah, Mulberry, Omaha, Leonard Dawe, Neptune and Overlord?

The auditorium being small, no spectators/audience was welcome: entry to the event was reserved exclusively for the participating teams numbering well over 100, consisting mostly of youngsters. We (my wife and I) got over the technical hitch by registering ourselves as a team and sneaked in. To give the credit where it is due, the idea was not ours: knowing our interest in the area, our son Gautam, who was a part of the corporate team, got us registered as a team. ‘If you do not get past the elimination round, you can sit back and enjoy the event,’ he said, his eyes twinkling.

The elimination was a through a written round. As the volunteers distributed the answer sheets, the quizmaster Dr Naveen Jayakumar said: Do not write an essay. All I am looking for is an operative word. If that word is present in your answer, you get credit; if not, you get zilch. Like, if the question is ‘What is the chemical in the blue diamond-shaped pills with the word of the manufacturer engraved on one side and the dose of that pill in milligrams on the other?’ I am looking for the word ‘Sildenafil Citrate’. Answers like ‘Viagra’ or ‘Pfizer’ or the condition it addresses are not valid.

The question ‘What is common to WW II, Utah, Mulberry, Omaha, Leonard Dawe, Neptune and Overlord?’ was part of that round. I quickly jotted down the answer. ‘How do you know?’ my wife whispered? I said, ‘Hush! Thereby hangs a tale.’

I had heard this interesting story in my schooldays but the minutiae had been swept away from my memory by the efflux of Time. The question brought it all back.

This happened during the days of the II World War. Though the newspapers consisted of only a few pages, they were at very popular because people were eager to know what was happening in other parts of the world.

But it wasn’t just the news that was people looked for in the daily newspapers; there were other matters of interest. Nearly all newspapers had crossword puzzles in them and they were very popular as they helped fill in the hours spent in constant fear of attacks or waiting for buses and trains.

The Daily Telegraph was one of the popular newspapers of the time. So was its crossword puzzle.

In January 1943, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin D Roosevelt met and agreed that the future of the war must include an invasion of northwest Europe or a ‘return to the Continent’. Churchill himself christened the assault: Operation Overlord it would be. After extensive research, it was decided that the sheltered Normandy coastline with its wide sandy beaches presented the best option for the surprise attack that was to be the D-Day landings. Planning for the invasion started almost immediately.

The US General Dwight D Eisenhower was made overall commander of Operation Overlord in December 1943, with the British hero General Bernard Law Montgomery assuming control of ground troops. It was in early May 1944 that Eisenhower decided that D-Day would fall on 5th June 1944.

A huge security blanket had been thrown over all aspects of the operation, including the place and exact date of the landings, in order to maximise the element of surprise and minimise casualties. One US major-general was even demoted and sent home for simply speculating at a cocktail party on the date of the invasion.

Some members of MI5, Britain’s counter-espionage service were whiling away their spare moments in May 1944 doing the Telegraph Crossword. They noticed that a clue was ‘One of the USA’ and the answer turned out to be Utah. The answer to another clue was Omaha. Two other answers that appeared in the series were Mulberry and Neptune. There was a clue about a ‘Big-Wig’ too.

What about it? Nothing, except that Utah and Omaha were the code-names given by the Allies to the beaches in Normandy where the American Forces were to land on D-Day. And Mulberry was the name of the floating harbour that was to be towed across the Channel to accommodate the supply ships of the invasion force. Neptune was the code-name for the naval support for the operation. And to cap it all, the answer to the clue that involved the word ‘Big-Wig’ was Overlord, the code-name given for the entire operation!

Imagine their consternation! The vital code-names that had been adopted to hide the mightiest sea-borne assault of all time had appeared in the crossword! Alarm bells rang throughout MI5. Was the crossword being used to tip off the enemy?

The needle of suspicion naturally pointed to the compiler of the crossword. It was a 54-year old teacher named Leonard Dawe. Two officers were sent immediately to Leatherhead in Surrey where he lived. Mr Dawe was known to be a disciplinarian and a man of extremely high principle. None could imagine that a person like him would be involved in such activity. But the officers could not leave anything to chance. Why, the officers demanded to know, had he chosen theses five words within his crossword solutions?

‘Why not?’ was Mr Dawe’s indignant reply. Was there a law against choosing whatever words he liked?

MI5 would have none of it. Mr Dawe had to go to extreme lengths to convince them that he had no knowledge of the coming D-Day invasion. The secret police eventually were convinced of Dawe’s honesty. His crossword solutions, it appeared, were perhaps just another of life’s astonishing coincidences!

Some fascinating facts were later revealed which indicate that the solutions were perhaps, after all, not simply astonishing coincidences! Mr Dawe had for some time been the Headmaster of Strand School. He used to compile crossword puzzles for the Daily Telegraph. It was often his practice to call in his students and pick their brains for words for inclusion in the puzzle. At that time the US Forces were liberally strewn through Surrey, particularly in the Epsom area. The boys heard these code-words being bandied about by the GIs and had innocently passed them on to their teacher.

So, now you know the answer to the quiz question.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


A quiz question on Current affairs. Who is the current chief executive of Rupert Murdoch’s News International? Need a clue? How about this: Confused Reebok barks ‘ho’ (7, 6)?

The cover page of the edition of the News of the World (NoW) that came out on the first Sunday of this month said ‘Thank You & Goodbye’, for it was the last rendition of the tabloid.

The newspaper might have been called many things over its 168-year-history, but 'subtle' was probably not one of the adjectives it was described by. For about a week, the tabloid had been in the eye of a storm following the allegation that the private eyes hired by them had been hacking thousands of telephones. NoW was rocked by revelations that the snooping extended to the telephones of a murdered teenager, victims of London's 7/7 Tube bombings of 2005 and the parents of two murdered schoolgirls.

Rebekah Brooks, editor and CEO of the embattled tabloid, was said to be responsible for the intrusive phone hacking (and alleged pay-offs to police officers to get story tips). She, however, denied any involvement or knowledge of the practice.

James Murdoch, son of the media baron Rupert Murdoch and Chairman of News International which owns the tabloid, referred to the charges and affirmed that the alleged ‘inhuman’ practices had no place in their company. Papa Murdoch flew in from Australia to London overnight to deal with the crisis that had engulfed NoW. He too condemned the phone hacking allegations as ‘deplorable and unacceptable.’ In a statement, James said, ‘Having consulted senior colleagues, I have decided that we must take further decisive action with respect to the paper…This Sunday will be the last issue of the News of the World… Colin Myler will edit the final edition of the paper…’

The staff at the London offices of the paper were shocked. Naturally. You have to live through such a crisis to have a taste of it. Imagine the panic that would grip you if you were to be told that you have no job from the next Monday. The job losses sparked scenes of anger at the paper's headquarters, largely directed at editor Brooks, whose actions, they said, had brought down the paper. Her pleas of innocence were denounced by her former employees. Though all the employees lost their jobs, she kept hers, which only exacerbated their wrath.

Brooks had recognized that the final issue of the tabloid could be used by the roughly 200 journalists facing the prospects of being thrown out of job as a skewer for barbequeing her. Apprehending that they would be on the offensive, the management had warned: ‘No libels or any hidden mocking messages of the chief executive’. Not just that: two very senior and loyal journalists from the Murdoch-owned ‘The Sun’ were brought in to go though every line on every page with a fine toothcomb and ‘sanitise’ the contents. The idea was to spot and remove any jibes directed at Brooks, a confidante of the owners, following the the phone hacking scandal resulting in the newspaper's spectacular demise. They read the paper cover to cover to ensure that soon-to-be-unemployed staffers – most of whom had nothing to do with the phone hacking – did not insert anything inflammatory into any of the articles or op-eds.

But looks like they didn’t do a good job. Or they clearly didn't think to look on the puzzle page. More likely, it turned out that the departing employees of NoW were smarter – and cerebral. The indignant lot sent a parting message of disgust to the former editor in the paper's final edition. They gave vent to all their ire in the crossword puzzle on page 47, splicing some less than obvious jibes and thus did the furious staff have the last laugh. Rebekah Brooks (and indeed the controversy in general) were both clues and answers in the crossword on Sunday. It was loaded with less-than subtle digs at the former editor over her being spared the knife and her decision to cling to her job. They found a way of mocking Brooks one last time.

The latent attacks savaging her resided in the paper's Quickie puzzle, with clues such as ‘Brook’, ‘stink’, ‘catastrophe’, ‘digital protection’ and ‘criminal enterprise’ alluding to Brook’s involvement in the systematic hacking and the events that followed. The choices for the Cryptic (an adjective one wouldn't associate with NoW) Crossword cut even closer to the bone, with clues including ‘mix in prison’, ‘string of recordings’ and ‘will fear new security measure’. The answers included obviously nasty words like ‘tart’, ‘menace’, ‘disaster’, ‘racket’ and ‘stench’. It is said answers like ‘deplored’ and ‘desist’ too reflect the mood of the staff, with a seemingly innocuous word like ‘repast’ being linked to its obscure meaning ‘a meal after a funeral’.

The common answer to the Cryptic Crossword ‘Will fear new security measure’ and the Quickie ‘digital protection’ is ‘firewall’, assumed to be a reference to the staff being blocked from using the internet following the announcement of the paper’s closure. Although the future of the paper’s staff and the financial impact of the closure remain uncertain, the final edition’s crossword page has forever immortalized the staff’s view of Brooks and what they consider to be her failure as the newspaper’s former editor.

The cerebral crew of NoW can gloat over the thought that the last ever crossword will forever contain many a cross word!

Postscript: Those interested in solving the crossword, please copy the image and enlarge. To see the solution to the crossword, please scroll down.



















































In order that I do not spoil the fun, I have used white font: words will appear when you select the table. I hope I'm right! Needless to add, the answers to both the Quickie and the Cryptic versions are the same.

To set the records straight, I have never read NoW. It is just that I was impressed by the deviousness of the staff of NoW and the way they got at the throat of the enemy. Most of this piece, except the solution, has been sourced from elsewhere.