Black and White

crypton chess puzzle

An old puzzle by Paul Hoffman from Science Digest. Dr. Crypton is playing chess with his boss. Crypton has the white pieces. What move can he play that will not checkmate Black? There’s no funny business; the problem is just what it seems, except that Crypton has promised never to put a knight on any square adjacent to the black king, so 1. Ne6 doesn’t count as a solution.

Click for Answer


When Joseph Addison lent a sum of money to his friend Temple Stanyan, Stanyan became meekly agreeable, unwilling to argue with Addison as he used to.

At last Addison told him, “Sir, either contradict me or pay me my money.”

Biographer Peter Smithers calls this “a salvo of which Johnson himself might have been proud.”

Made to Order
Image: Flickr

Dismissing art dealer Leo Castelli in the late 1950s, Willem de Kooning said, “You could give that son of a bitch two beer cans and he could sell them.”

“I heard this and thought, ‘What a sculpture — two beer cans,'” noted Jasper Johns. “It seemed to fit in perfectly with what I was doing, so I did them and Leo sold them.”

Robert and Ethel Scull bought Painted Bronze (Ale Cans) for $960.

(Fred Orton, Figuring Jasper Johns, 1994.)

Good for the Gander

In the early days of Dada I received for review a book which contained the following ‘poem’:

       'A B C D E F
        G H I J K L
        M N O P Q R
        S T U V W X
            Y Z.'

On which I commented:

       '1 2 3 4 5
        6 7 8 9 10.'

I still think that was the most snappy review I ever wrote; but unfortunately The Times refused to print it.

— Richard Aldington, Life for Life’s Sake, 1941

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Obscure but entertaining: In 1123 David I of Scotland established that the Saint Andrews Links was common land that belonged to the townspeople of St Andrews.

David was the grandson of Duncan I, who’d been murdered by Macbeth — the man who was determined to “fight the course.”

See Out, Out!


A curious observation by a British ornithologist during World War I:

The Zeppelin raids … were nearly always heralded in this country by the crowing of pheasants, and the sensitiveness of this species to distant sounds was frequently a subject of comment. There seems no reason to suppose that pheasants have keener powers of hearing than men; it appears more probable that these birds are alarmed by the sudden quivering of the trees, on which they happen to be perched, at the time of an explosion … During the first Zeppelin raid in January 1915, pheasants … thirty-five to forty miles from the area over which the Zeppelins flew, shrieked themselves hoarse. In one of the early battles in the North Sea … Gamekeepers on the east coast used to say that they always knew when enemy raids had commenced, ‘for the pheasants call us day and night’.

On the Western Front, a starling learned to imitate the whistle that warned of enemy aeroplanes. One artillery officer wrote, “It was great fun to see everyone diving for cover, and I was nearly deceived myself one day.” A gun commander wrote of an owl, “The beastly bird learnt to imitate the alarm whistle to a nicety; on several occasions he turned me out in pyjamas and, when the crew had manned the gun, gave vent to a decided chuckle.” See Onlookers.

(Joy Damousi, Deborah Tout-Smith, and Bart Ziino, eds., Museums, History and the Intimate Experience of the Great War, 2020.)

All’s One for That
Image: Wikimedia Commons

The remains of Richard III were discovered under a Leicester car park in 2012. In the city center searchers located the site of the demolished Greyfriars Church where Richard’s body had been buried hastily in 1485, and the skeleton of an adult male human was found beneath the church’s choir. It exhibited severe scoliosis of the spine and 10 injuries to the head, rib, and pelvis, including “a mortal battlefield wound in the back of the skull” apparently inflicted by a halberd. The king’s identity was confirmed by a mitochondrial DNA sample provided by his modern descendants.

He was reburied in Leicester Cathedral in 2015.

04/13/2024 UPDATE: He was identified through descendants of his elder sister, Anne of York — he had no direct living descendants. My mistake. (Thanks, Steve.)

General Delivery,_Kagawa_Prefecture_Mitoyo_Takuma_cho_Awashima%EF%BC%89.JPG
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Send a postcard to the “missing post office” on Awashima Island, Japan, and it will be held there to be read by anyone. Messages can be sent for any reason — the office has received cards addressed to deceased relatives, early loves, unborn children, even to a traffic light. Samples:

‘Mother, When you died last summer I didn’t cry. When you were alive it was like we only said horrible and spiteful things to each other … If we met now I think we still would … But a year has passed and I have only loving memories from childhood left. I have when we made pudding together. I have when we read books. I have when you bought me my piano. That was the happiest.’

‘To my future grandchild, When will you arrive? The sooner the better, come on and be born! I can’t wait to finally do for you everything I couldn’t do for my own kids.’

‘Actually, I was hoping to do the folk dance at school with you. My heart was pounding with excitement as our turn together was coming around soon but … just before it happened, the song cut off. Since then several autumns have gone by. What might have happened to you by now?’

The project was launched in 2013 by artist Saya Kubota and has been maintained due to its popularity. Anyone can participate — send a postcard to this address, omitting the name of the recipient and your own name and address:

Missing Post Office (Hyoryu Yubinkyoku) 769-1108 Hyoryu Yubinkyoku Dome Awashima 1317-2, Takuma Town, Miyoto City, Kagawa Prefecture, Japan

A visitor who feels a message is meant for them will be allowed to keep it.

Related: The Bridegroom’s Oak.