Meanwhile, as the Venezuelan government cracks down on protesters and tightens currency controls amid growing shortages of basic goods like toilet paper, the government’s information minister has declared a new enemy: crossword puzzles. While the minister doesn’t appear to be a skilled-enough solver to post the offending answers, she alleges that the newspaper El Arügueño is hiding anti-government messages in its crossword.
It wouldn’t be the first time such allegations have been made: in 2012, the puzzle constructor for Últimas Noticias, Neptalí Segovia, was hauled in to the intelligence ministry to explain a puzzle that was seen as a death threat against the regional governor, who happens to be President Maduro’s brother. Segovia said the offending juxtaposition of words was just a coincidence, and he avoided punishment.
Now there are in fact puzzles that have included hidden messages: happy (marriage proposals) and sad (a farewell from a dying friend), so the idea isn’t so far-fetched. Some constructors, like Kevin Wald, make an art of it. Usually though, when there is an intended message or theme within a puzzle, the constructor will call it to attention somehow: either explicitly in the instructions or a clue, or by putting the message in an obvious place like the central row of the grid or the first letters of the clues.
Such messages have a long and noble history beyond the crossword, and indeed beyond the written word: one of the reasons I appreciate the music of Dimitri Shostakovich was his willingness to skate out at the edge of what the government would allow, and his use of music to challenge the authorities in the USSR. We’re fortunate to live in a place where Hot and Trazom and their editors can sneak a message into a puzzle and not be afraid of being clapped into jail as a result.
Link to puzzle: http://www.thenation.com/article/179246/puzzle-no-3321
Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): moderate, with a few hard ones before you finish. Be ready for twists!
Back with the solution (and more 11) on Monday. Join us as always this weekend for Sunday brunch.