The Gravestone

A masterpiece of deception.

Close to four million visitors pass through the town of Stratford-upon-Avon every year and the medieval church, Stratford’s oldest building, attracts tourists by the convoys of busloads in a steady stream, year-in year-out, from every corner of the globe. Since David Garrick’s 1769 Jubilee started the gold rush of heightened interest in Shakespeare, it’s safe to say somewhere between fifty and a hundred million tourists have entered the church to pay tribute or just gawk.

As they stared at the cryptic inscription on the Bard’s gravestone, struggling to read it upside down (it faces away from the chancel towards the altar) little did any of them know they were looking at the most elegant and brilliantly conceived puzzle in the entire history of cryptography. (That sounds like hyperbole but as you play THE GAME and travel this astounding journey of discovery you will come to realize it is no exaggeration.)

The quatrain on the grey stone slab has often been described as the worst piece of doggerel verse imaginable – for the greatest writer ever! It’s inconceivable that the author himself wrote it or that it could be considered a suitable epitaph to conclude such a colossal career. It lopes along in a child-like ‘humpty-dumpty dump-dee-dump’  manner and worst of all – his name is not even on it!

Note the Middle English usage of a ‘Y’ substitute for “Th”. It was a printer’s device called a ‘thorn’ that long ago fell into disuse but it turns what looks like YE into THE and substitutes YT for THAT. You see it used also in Shakespeare’s monument which bears an equally non-sensical (yet ultimately brilliant) cryptic puzzle.

The true depth of the cryptographer’s accomplishment can only be appreciated by peeling away the layers one by one – which is the purpose of THE GAME you’ll soon be invited to play, for free, in advance of it coming to market as a full-fledged app. For now I can only hint that you’re about to witness the unveiling of the world’s first crossword puzzle! Get ready.