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Sunday 9 May 2021

The pleasure of the senses The modern puzzles

The modern puzzles

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In the last two centuries, the art of proposing and solving puzzles has found its specific training ground in specialized publications typical of this period. In Italy the first of these periodicals was "L'Aguzzaingegno", which came out in Milan in the form of an annual volume starting in 1821, with more than fifty years of delay, in truth, on that "Magasin énigmatique" which, born in France in 1767, must be considered the first newspaper of its kind in the world.

Subsequently in Italy numerous publications of this kind saw the light, some of which were very successful; just think of The Race of Fortune Tellers (1875-1900), a Solomon's Court (1901-1958), to the Diana d'Alteno (1891-1944) ea Twilight, which since 1920 continues its uninterrupted activity today.

And for what today's puzzles are called “classical”, as if to indicate a noble lineage and establish natural links with a fascinating literary tradition; also, however, to distinguish it from what is commonly understood by this term, which is immediately related to "crosswords", "crosswords" and "rebus".

The misunderstanding is almost ninety years old, when in Italy the publications of a very widespread magazine of various games began, a magazine mainly of crosswords, which, in the following decades, have followed more and more numerous attempts at imitation. The adjective "enigmistic", used improperly at the time, began to confuse the unsuspecting public, who was led to attribute a distorted meaning to it, far from that traditionally referred to the art of enigmas. The American invention of the crossword puzzle then spread enormously, appropriating the term "enigmistic", without any justification and without the small group of fans of the true enigma, the one in which there is actually something hidden and ambiguous to be revealed. .

Beyond the cases of authors of the past, who derived their poetic manifestations from the enigma, the activity, here in highly developed Italy, of openly enigmographers must be taken into account; an activity that still represents a particular fun, a refined exercise of bizarre culture.

This crowd of enthusiasts delights in an exercise that requires an initial approach that is not simple, however hampered by nomenclatural complications and the need to learn the essential technical aspects. But the beauty certainly comes later, when we begin to discover the secrets of this ambiguous talk and the pleasure of penetrating the mysteries of the goddess Sphinx.

In addition, in fact, to certain surprising acrobatics, linked indeed more to sterile mechanisms on graphemes, or to complex formal elaborations, the main interest of puzzles is that linked to some of its aspects, which have as support conceptual manipulations of meaning: this argument, undoubtedly more worthy and fascinating and of which we will speak specifically in the following.

The puzzles, in its most widespread form, the one that refers to the classical tradition, is done in verse, which at least have the formal structure of poetry; while, in essence, the "restriction" of the author of puzzles is having to refer simultaneously to two different subjects.

There is no need here to insist on semiological analyzes and discussions linked more to a possible subsequent scientific-literary use of the enigmatic text than to an immediate understanding of the "game". Instead, it must simply be noted that what was the metaphorical structure of the ancient enigma, in modern enigmistics today takes on a more specific dimension, placing itself within the text. At the time, these were mostly "enigmatic" speeches, intended to deceive the interlocutor, but lacking a real "enigmistic" structure, which instead manifests itself when there is a coherent and determined double isotopy in the text.

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