Friday, January 1, 2010

THC 9729 Has A Hidden Message!

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The Hindu Crossword 9729 appeared in the paper today with the by-line of Gridman, out of turn as M.Manna's sequence of 7 grids is not yet over.

The Hindu doesn't generally shuffle its setter sequence, so this was curious. More so because the grid did not look like Gridman's at all. It isn't one of his standard grids, and it isn't a particularly pretty grid either. Black patches at the top-right/bottom-left? Two consecutive unches at the start of words? What's happened to Gridman, was my first reaction.

With the puzzle solved, all of it made sense. It's a special puzzle, with a message encoded in the grid. Did you see it while solving? If not, do you see it now?

The filled-in grid is below. A few hours later, I'll replace it with another that highlights the message. Look for the message meanwhile, and leave a comment about it. Update: Grid replaced!
Hidden Message Deciphered

The perimeter spells out, starting from the bottom-right in clockwise direction:


Congrats to Ganesh, sriks7, Bhavan, Col Gopinath, Musical Scientist, raghunath – you got it right!

To accommodate the message around the entire perimeter, perhaps, Gridman chose a grid with unusually high blacks/unches. A better option might have been to hide in a longer message to avoid blacks in the perimeter. Or to put the message in other parts of the grid, such as the circle spanning the 2nd row-column. The special grid would have also retained its fairness/aesthetic value that way.

Of course, the clues are uniformly sound so the grid does not cause difficulty in solving.

A secret message of this kind is called a Nina, which I wrote about a couple of months ago over here: What is a Nina? 

This was a treat, a promising cruciverbal beginning to the New Year 2010. Thank you, The Hindu and Gridman, for giving us solvers an unexpected New Year gift.

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Ganesh T S said...


Wish You a Happy New Year!

My reaction on seeing today's crossword were very similar to yours!

Please look for my comments on the Orkut thread for today's crossword :)

sriks7 said...

Oh I see it.
Wish you a very Happy New Year as well!

Bhavan said...

I can't contest the fact that the grid looks misshapen. I can't figure either why the message started where it did. Probably I would have found it conforming had it started diametrically opposite !

Col_Gopinath said...

Well Well that's why it was Gridman out of turn. I too 'WISH YOU A HAPPY NEW YEAR' Gridman!!

Musical Scientist said...

Indeed a beautiful gift from Gridman. Thanks a lot for pointing out the "Wish you a happy new year" part as we read anti-clockwise starting from the bottom right. A stroke of genius..thanks shuchi and wish you a very happy new year too!!

Chaturvasi said...

I must say you have been observing THC grids closely.

We were not sure that the pangram that you noticed in a Gridman crossword the other day was THC's first - for the simple reason that we may not have seen it in any earlier instance unless we had been careful enough - unless we went looking for it.

However, I think the hidden message in the grid should be a first in THC.

As for the term Nina, I don't see why we should use it. If I am not mistaken, it is the name of the daughter of an artist who tucked it away somewhere in his drawing. I guess each time it must have been the same name. However, if messages are embedded in crossword grids it is different each time. Right? So why should we call it Nina?

At least for this sort of trick in crosswords published in India, let's coin some other term. Any suggestions?

The grid that the setter created is not pleasing. It is not done well but you are surprised that it is done at all.

This setter's usual grids do not have double unches but here he seems to have relaxed his self-imposed rule.

I may point out that some UK crosswords do have double unches: the grids may be from the past. Bloggers often suggest that those grids might be dispensed with and fresh ones created.

As for the mass of blocks in the grid, I see that kind of thing in Everyman crosswords though even here Gridman may have overdone it. At least the grid is symmetrical!

Musical Scientist said...

Oops..that should have been "reading clockwise" :)

richlas said...

Hello Shuchi

This is my very first post on your blog.

The URL directed from the Colonel's THC blog shows an extra name - that of Nina. Could it have something to do with the hidden message?


Shuchi said...

Hi Richard, Very warm welcome to Crossword Unclued. A hidden message of this kind is traditionally called a Nina -look at this post for more What Is A Nina?

Other commenters:
I'll publish your comments together, giving other visitors a chance for some more time. Congrats to all those you got it right!

raghunath said...

Hi Shuchi,

I would not have looked for something amiss in the grid. But with so much attention showered on it I could make out why.

In the clockwise direction: WISH YOU A HAPPY NEW YEAR. Cheers!

Shuchi said...

Happy New Year to all of you!

@Ganesh: You were the first to find this message. Applause!

@Bhavan: That's a thought. Starting at the top-left would have made the Nina easier to notice. Gridman wanted it to be less conspicuous, maybe?

@Musical Scientist: Guess what. I had written anti-clockwise in my post too, and made the correction after seeing yours. Thanks :)

@Chaturvasi: You raise a fair point, but I rather like the word Nina - it's short and mysterious and more importantly, is now universally understood to mean a hidden message in crossword grids. I don't mind continuing to use the word.

Shuchi said...

About double unches - I think their position makes a difference. Double unches within a word are better than at the end or start of a word.

I don't mind double unches at all actually, as long as the clues that fill them are fair. The "look" of the grid in this case is my greater objection.

Vasana said...

I did not notice it at all, though glad it was Gridman's! Shuchi, I salute your power of observation!

Have a great new year, everyone!