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Posts Tagged ‘Torquemada

“The nice thing about doing a crossword puzzle is, you know there is a solution”*…

An Ernie Bushmiller “Cross Word Cal” cartoon, from Sunday New York World, 1925. Note how the animals are caged by letter length and genus — Source.

Roddy Howland Jackson (himself a setter of puzzles) considers the origins of, and reveals the pleasures and imaginative creatures lurking in Torquemada’s seminal puzzles, the original cryptic crosswords…

Just a few years after The Waste Land appeared — a poem whose difficulty critics compared to some “pompous cross-word puzzle” — Edward Powys Mathers (alias: Torquemada) pioneered the cryptic: a puzzle form that, like modernist poetry, unwove language and rewove it anew…

“The Swan” from Torquemada’s Cross-Words in Rhyme for Those of Riper Years (1925) — Source

T. S. Eliot, Vladimir Nabokov, Torquemada, and the Modernist crossword: “Beastly Clues,” from @roddyhj in @PublicDomainRev.

See also “Topic: Surprise, Drowsy Cows RIP, as Corrected (2,5,7,10)

* Stephen Sondheim (who helped introduce Americans to British-style cryptic crosswords)


As we contemplate circuitous clues, we might note that today is National Thesaurus Day, celebrated each year on this date in honor of physician, natural theologian, and lexicographer Peter Mark Roget, who was born on this date in 1779. In 1852 Roget published his Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition (or, as we know it, Roget’s Thesaurus), a pioneering collection of related words.

Modern thesauri tend to be collections of synonyms and antonyms. Roget’s Thesaurus was…

… essentially a reverse dictionary. With a dictionary, the user looks up a word to find its meaning. With Roget’s, the user start with an idea and then keeps flipping through the book until he finds the word that best expresses it. The organization of the book reflects the unique intelligence of the polymath that created it…

Roget’s was a two-for-one: it put both a book of synonyms and a topic dictionary (a compendium of thematically arranged concepts) under one cover.

Roget’s official portrait by Thomas Pettigrew


Boo! (It’s that time again…)

…from the always-amusing xkcd.  (The last panel? The Banach-Tarski Paradox:  explained here; illustrated here.  The “Axiom of Choice”– of which the the B-T Paradox is a case– is explained here.)

As we gird ourselves for the season of horrors, we might recall that it was on this date in 1483 that Tomás de Torquemada was appointed Inquisitor General of Spain (at the behest of Queen Isabella, whose confessor he had been).  Called “the hammer of heretics, the light of Spain, the saviour of his country, the honor of his order” by Spanish chronicler Sebastián de Olmedo, Torquemada was a key advocate for the Alhambra Decree (Ferdinand’s and Isabella’s expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492) and a zealous prosecutor of “crypto-Jews” and “crypto-Muslims.”  While the precise number of deaths on his watch is a matter of debate, there is a general agreement that, between 1480 and 1530, about 2000 people burned in the autos-de-fé of the Spanish Inquisition.



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