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Crossword Panic of 1944 (historic-uk.com)
160 points by yread 61 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments

>Why, the officers demanded to know, had he chosen these five words within his crossword solutions?

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

That's one of those cases I kinda fear being in.

How do you prove you're not giving away secrets in some secret way when the clue is some random events in life that have little behind them other than happenstance.

> How do you prove you're not giving away secrets in some secret way when the clue is some random events in life that have little behind them other than happenstance.

Isn't this the entire foundation of the fundamental right of innocent until proven guilty? Of course in practice it isn't so simple. In an extreme condition that is extremely unlikely, you could be found guilty exactaly for that reason perhaps. At what point statistically is it on the wrong side of "reasonable doubt"?

In that case, the probability of choosing 5 words so relevant at random (including the two main targets, the code name of the whole operation and the code name of the most crucial part of it) are so small that their suspicions were totally warranted statistically.

They tried to transform their suspicions into material elements and came empty handed, and left the man alone, which is the core difference between a democracy and an authoritarian regime.

However this coincidence is so strange that on that basis alone I am wondering if they did not miss something.

Read the footnote, the compiler had a habit of asking around for words.

It seems that a lot of Rule of Law goes out the window when it comes to (apparent) matters of national security.

I think that’s often true, but it doesn’t seem to be the case here. The authorities saw something suspicious, they investigated, and ultimately it went nowhere. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to go.

The problem is that three-letter agencies aren't known to be big fans of due process...

Well as for a trial, probabbly not guilty.

I'm just thinking of assuring the local security folks that I'm not doing a bad thing / avoiding the hassle of them thinking I am. When I probabbly don't know what the bad thing even is.

> Isn't this the entire foundation of the fundamental right of innocent until proven guilty?

Well, not really, that's more about simply being accused not being enough to imprison or hang you.

An accusation is absolutely enough to be jailed. Due process and rule of law are fictions in our current society.

It's even likely to be the other way around, that the generals who came up with the code name were directly/indirectly influenced by some common cultural influence that led to the same words.

Makes me think of something Camus would write about.


paggle 61 days ago [flagged]

Wow... reads like a core dump

Please don't take HN threads further into flamewar. The site guidelines ask you not to reply to egregious comments, for just this reason.


I really want them to elaborate on "I don't believe in the existence of hate speech".

Hate speech as a legal definition cannot coexist with freedom of speech. I hold freedom of speech as one of my highest principles. We already have just laws against inciting panic and violence. The category of hate speech is irrelevant in the best case, and actively harmful in the worst case.

Most importantly, what should concern all thoughtful people is that it seems to be within the Overton Window to say how much you hate white people because of the color of their skin. Not hate speech, why exactly? Because the entire concept is reactionary nonsense trying to give white people harsher criminal sentences for the same violent crimes as committed by other races. What happens if the table turns again and the standard is unfairly applied in reverse? Hate soeech advocates have already set the precedent that we get to choose which races get favored prosecution treatment for the same crime.

Violence is violence, speech is speech. You can't improve on Martin Luther King, man. Judge individuals based on the content of their character. The list is complete.

Hate speech is a loaded term where the connotations are more powerful than the literal definition. Other examples include racist and sexist.

Do you have a sexual preference? In other words, you immediately discount someone based on qualities they were born with and have no control over. That by definition makes you a sexist, but so what. All discrimination is not wrong, like how employers (attempt to) strongly discriminate based on ability.

Hate speech is in the same bucket. It has a murky, varying meaning depending on who you talk to.

I personally also do not believe in "hate speech". Its an attempt to bait-and-switch language, like calling someone hateful when really you just disagree with them, or maybe theyre just rude. Its begging the question.

> you have a sexual preference? In other words, you immediately discount someone based on qualities they were born with and have no control over. That by definition makes you a sexist

No it doesn't.

Depends on who you ask. Americans increasingly believe otherwise. Here's an anecdote https://www.thedailybeast.com/no-blacks-is-not-a-sexual-pref...

You can find someone who will say anything, but that's still simply not the definition of sexism.

Yes it is.

Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on a person's sex or gender.


prejudice or discrimination based on sex


prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex


prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender, especially against women and girls.


actions based on a belief that particular jobs and activities are suitable only for women and others are suitable only for men


What definition of sexism are you using where discriminating against what sex you want to date isnt sexism?

The linked article is rather thin. There is more detail on Wikipedia [0], including links to more thorough Telegraph stories from 2004 [1] and 2014 [2].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D-Day_Daily_Telegraph_crosswor...

[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1460892/D-Day-crossw...

[2] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/10789884/Who-put-s...

This almost reminds me of the Foundation series. Where with enough math/statistics one can extract the future. Except here applied to 6th graders, distilling the information they had heard, and breaking an operation that way.

6th formers are aged 16-18. I think 6th graders are much younger?

Correct. 6th form (lower sixth and upper sixth) is the two academic years prior to going to uni in the UK. 16-18 year olds.

It's an England and Wales thing, not a UK thing.

> I think 6th graders are much younger?

About 11-12 years old.

Yes, usually 11-12.

I can readily believe that they may have picked up Utah and Omaha from US soldiers' casual conversation, but if Mulberry and Overlord were being bandied about with enough frequency to have made an impression, I do not suppose they were very secret.

I first heard about this on the Omnibus Project podcast (Ken Jennings & John Roderick).

Here's the link if anyone would like to listen to some light-hearted discussion on the topic: https://www.omnibusproject.com/podcasts/the-d-day-crosswords...

I read a theory that the crossword maker had unconsciously picked up these words being used by kids, who themselves would like to hang out near soldiers that would use those code words.

That is mentioned in the footnote: “it was often his practice to call in 6th formers and ask them for words for inclusion. At that time the US Forces were liberally strewn through Surrey, particularly in the Epsom area and there is no doubt that boys heard these code words being bandied about and innocently passed them on.”

This sounds absurd to me. Ordinary soldiers are unlikely to have been told the codewords for their area of operations until the last minute. They certainly wouldn't have been told about other code words for other areas of operation that they were not part of!

I don't buy it one bit. I also find it unlikely that the bulk of the invasion force was in Surrey in May '44. I think they might have moved to the coast by then.

The wikipedia article on this topic also indicates that there is some reason to suspect that the crossword author was not being entirely truthful about it, but at the end of the day, who knows.

I’m having a hard time imagining what value putting code names in the crossword would have. Did they suspect the compiler was encoding information in the position of the words or something?

Seems like an unnecessarily hard way to exfiltrate data.

True, but you can still imagine why they'd be worried to find so many of these related code words regarding the most critical secret operation of the war being published in this cryptic fashion.

Based on what we knew of enigma and codebreaking at the time knowing frequently-used or high-value words and phrases may have assisted German codebreaking efforts.

Considering the circumstances extreme paranoia seems justified.

If you had limited bandwidth, but knew other agents existed, "have the other guy ask about Operation Overlord" would be a useful message to get out.

Although one shouldn't assume, the Abwehr was so totally outgunned in WW2 that they did not successfully insert any agents into Britain. All who landed were either converted to double agents (Some just volunteered without being asked) or captured (and presumably some "dealt with")

Coincidences are strange and dangerous things.

— Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

BBC TV drama "The Mountain and the Molehill" (1988) at:


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