Crosswords art in London underground

By Venkata Vemuri, IANS,

London : Go back to the early 1940s in London, a city under siege from the German Luftwaffe bombings. People used to spend most of their time in bunkers and the underground tube stations to escape the raids from the skies. The crosswords they used to do to pass time is the new art form today.

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Serene Korda, a British artist, has opened an exhibition at the Stanmore tube station using the crosswords structure to commemorate not just those dreary days, but also to salute the nation’s biggest pastime and refresh memories of how the puzzles were used to break enemy codes during the last war.

Korda has developed a series of crosswords that form the basis of a new art installation called The Answer Lies at the End of the Line. Each person who travels to the station is invited to enter a playful and tricky alternative world of ciphers and mysterious clues, highlighting the various landmarks and stories peculiar to Stanmore.

The full answers, as the title of the exhibition suggests, are at the end of the line. And for those content to live without answers, the linocuts in shades of moss and rust and mustard are stimulating all by themselves.

The individual puzzle themes are the Stanmore Choral Society, the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, the Bird Walk of Canons Park, Stanmore Bowls Club, the London Underground, Bletchley Park, and the infamous Duke of Chandos, who made and lost a fortune in ten years, reports The Times.

Korda chose Stanmore simply because she has used the station since her student days. She used to pass by a building, next to the station, which during war-time used to house the famous Turin Bombe machines, used by code-breakers in nearby Bletchley Park to decipher the German Enigma code.

She read about how potential recruits to the code-breaking unit had to complete the Daily Telegraph crossword puzzle in less than 12 minutes – a test suited to the chess champions, mathematicians and polyglots who formed the typical pool of applicants.

Elders in her family used to recall how they used to use the Stanmore underground during raids and how the London transport department used to issue crossword puzzles on the reverse side of information sheets to help them pass their time.

The memories have now taken shape in the latest art exhibition by her.

Korda collaborated with a group of crossword setters called the Stanmore Puzzlers, for her work.

She also took help from professional crossword setters Geoff Heath and Roy Dean of The Times, who is said to hold the world record for completing The Times crossword in a time of three minutes and 45 seconds.

There is a graphic illustration of Dean in Korda’s exhibit, complete with the challenge: “Can you beat Roy’s record?”

If you wish to download the PDF of Serena Korda’s puzzles from Art on the Underground go to