The journal Sphinx, subtitled "Revue Mensuelle des Questions Récréatives", was published in Belgium in French language, from 1931 to 1939, entirely devoted to recreational mathematics.
The editor was Maurice Kraitchik, an outstanding mathematician professor at the University of Brussels, and M. Pigeolet, a great master puzzlist, was the cryptarithmetic editor.
Sphinx cryptarithms were either contributed by M. Pigeolet or otherwise submited by the subscribers to the magazine. To boost interest on cryptarithmetic, Sphinx editors used to organize puzzle contests paying cash prizes to the winners. Along the year 1933 they were running "The Cryptarithmetic Year" competition, followed by "The Cryptarithmetic Key" in January 1934.
It was in the Sphinx edition of May 1931 that Simon Vatriquant, using the pseudonym "Minos", first introduced the word "crypt-arithmetic" when proposing the following puzzle with these comments:Cryptographers, to hide the meaning of messages, put figures in place of letters. By way of reprisal, we will replace each digit of the following problem with a distinct letter: A B C D E --------- F E C D E C ---------- H G B C
Most of the information available about Sphinx comes from Maxey Brooke's book "150 Puzzles in Crypt-Arithmetic".
Commenting on the historic mission of Sphinx he says:If the readers of Sphinx did not originate the (type of) problem, they certainly elevated it to a plane never achieved before or since.
We dedicate our solemn and perennial gratitude to the Sphinx editors, contributors and readers who, early back in the thirties, laid the firm foundations of the cryptarithmetic noble art.
We are indebted to Peter Van Driessche for retrieving the Sphinx cover that illustrates this page from the archives of The Royal Albert Library in Brussels.
© 2002 by Jorge A C B Soares.
All rights reserved.
Last updated: September 1st, 2010.
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