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Bletchley Park Brainteasers Review

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This book by author Sinclair McKay and publisher Headline sets you the types of brain teasers that were used to recruit code breakers to Bletchley Park which is a historic mansion in the county of Buckinghamshire in England that housed code breakers during World War 2 to help win the war. Bletchley Park still stands to this very day but now as a museum that you can visit and learn all about what went on there and the important people that worked there as well as see the actual codebreaking machinery that was used during the war. The codebreaking activities it once held now take place in a modern facility that is the doughnut-shaped building in Cheltenham where the GCHQ now resides. World War 2 happened in a time that had more limited technology than we have today and the book is about how the codebreakers achieved incredible feats with this limited technology but this was also a period of great innovation in which advances in technology for avoiding the codebreakers and for deciphering codes happened constantly.

These puzzles are meant to test the brightest minds in the country and challenge them in a variety of ways by using different kinds of puzzles like codes, crosswords, riddles, number and symbol challenges, etc that test and relate to codebreaking. These puzzles will test both logical and lateral thinking and you will require a pen or pencil to work them out and maybe a separate notepad to fit all the workings on. The crosswords, like a lot of the puzzles, are from the World War 2 period but you should be able to have a go at most of them without having specific knowledge of the time or of Britain. The puzzles are each going to take a lot of time to work through unless you are exceptionally gifted so you may need to set aside a few hours just to get through one of them. They are puzzles that if you do show your working out then you should be able to come back to them to finish them off if you were to take a break.

There are, in total, 288 pages in this book to plough through which means it will keep you occupied for some time with the over 100 puzzles it possesses as well as the corresponding stories, such as how codebreakers were recruited with them, that goes with them. You will need a good reading level to understand a lot of the questions as well as the informational passages because the book uses an extensive vocabulary but the coding terminology and technology are explained so if you know nothing about code-breaking this book would be a good entry point to this world or you would like to know the origins of modern codebreaking. The book is printed in black and white which can make it feel a little bland and would have been better with some colour and possibly photos to illustrate it but the book's pages are well laid out with the puzzles not appearing cluttered.

The book is an educational one as well as offering puzzles and you can learn about the codebreaking techniques that were used during the war and this means the book offers you a bit of a history lesson as well with the stories from that era. This book will really interest those who have an interest in war, or British history particularly the first half of the 20th century or code-breaking and it does a great job of informing the reader how these codebreakers achieved incredible successes with the limited technology at their disposal and how lives were literally on the line when trying to break a code. The competition between the warring nations codebreakers is a key element of the book and the innovations of the opposition are mentioned and how the code-breakers at Bletchley counteracted and stayed ahead of these innovations. This includes the Enigma machine used by the Nazis to protect their communications that at the time was deemed unbreakable and the ultimate challenge for a codebreaker and the breaking of it greatly helped the war effort. The book will inform you about the codebreakers themselves with the most famous of them being Alan Turing and you will be informed about both what they achieved during this period and what kind of people they were. The most fascinating aspect of the book may be the approach these incredible minds have in approaching complex puzzles and these approaches can be taken as advice that should be valuable to any puzzle enthusiast no matter what their level is.

The book is a factual account of what happened during the period in which Bletchley Park was in operation for codebreaking activities but is written in a way to make this as entertaining a read as possible by describing the characters and personalities of the codebreakers as well as their backstories. The book shows that codebreakers don't always fit the stereotype and that their personalities and interests can vary dramatically. Another entertaining aspect of the book is the way in which the codebreakers were recruited and the numerous ways this was done and the unusual skills they were looking for. The book does a good job of transmitting just how much these codebreakers enjoyed puzzles and that code-breaking was as much of a passion as a job.

The book also makes a good travellers item as it will fit easily and snuggly in a rucksack or suitcase without taking up much room and is light in weight as to not add extra unnecessary weight or could simply be good reading material for the commute to work if you are going by train or bus.

The book is really an individual activity because the puzzles set within are very complex that requires a lot of time to think through and work out so they are not short simple brain teasers that you could ask somebody else except maybe some of the crossword questions which another person could try to answer immediately but if you wanted to make it more of a collaborative exercise then you could try to solve them in tandem with somebody else especially if you are stuck on certain puzzles.

The replayability of the book is going to be high because it is a book you will be able to come back to not only for possibly research purposes as the book gives detailed information on the Bletchley period but also the puzzles are very complex and ones you will likely forget how you solved them so when you come back to them you can see if you can do them again or do them quicker.

The level of difficulty for this book is obviously very high with its wide variety of complex challenges testing different puzzle-solving skills. Some puzzles though can be a lot easier than others depending on your level of ability and what you are naturally better at as well. You are going to need a high level of math to figure some of these puzzles out and also experience of these types of puzzles would be beneficial because if you haven't encountered them before then you likely are really going to struggle.

In conclusion, this is suitable for a puzzle enthusiast with a lot of ability and who is looking for a diverse set of difficult challenges as from this book a person will be able to get an idea of whether or not they could have matched the standards of the codebreakers of Bletchley Park during World War 2 but for everybody else this is probably too challenging and therefore would likely be very frustrating and not be an enjoyable experience but could also be suitable for a person who has an interest in World War 2 or codebreaking as the information it contains on them is fascinating.




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