Who Can Solve This Cryptic Crossword Puzzle on This Man’s Tombstone?


In the quiet cemetery next to St. Mary’s Priory Church in Monmouth, Wales, lies the final resting place of a man named John Renie. Born in 1799, he lived a relatively ordinary life, painting houses, getting married, and raising two sons before his untimely death in 1832. If you visit his tombstone, you’ll discover these basic facts about his life with ease. What you won’t find so easily is his name.

Instead of a conventional epitaph, Renie’s tombstone boasts a 285-letter word puzzle. It’s believed that Renie designed this unique marker himself during his last years, leaving many to wonder why his name seems conspicuously absent. But if you take a closer look, the mystery begins to unravel.

In the heart of this word puzzle, amidst a scattering of capital Js and Rs forming a diamond shape, there’s a solitary capital H. This central square holds the key. You can start reading from that middle block and move in any direction you please. Whether you follow a horizontal path, let your eye wander vertically, or explore diagonal routes, one message becomes apparent. Radiating from the center block in every direction, the phrase “Here lies John Renie” emerges in nearly 46,000 distinct combinations, reminiscent of Tetris pieces. The tombstone is a mind-boggling enigma, but perhaps that’s precisely the intention behind it


According to local lore and the insights of Lionel Fanthorpe, a British priest and author, Renie may have intentionally obscured his name due to an old superstition. It’s said that some believed the devil could not claim your soul if he couldn’t discern your name. Was this massive stone acrostic Renie’s ticket to heaven? It’s an intriguing possibility, but there’s another hypothesis to consider – perhaps John Renie simply had a deep passion for word games.

Imagine the scene: a man in his twilight years, with a love for language and a penchant for puzzles. As he contemplated his own mortality, he decided to leave behind a lasting testament to his passion. Renie meticulously designed this intricate word puzzle, ensuring that no matter where you started reading, his name would eventually appear.

His tombstone has become a testament to his creativity and a puzzle that continues to captivate visitors from around the world. As people gather around the grave, they find themselves drawn into the challenge, attempting to decipher the cryptic message and pay homage to a man whose name was shrouded in a linguistic riddle.

So, the next time you find yourself in the quiet cemetery of St. Mary’s Priory Church in Monmouth, don’t be surprised if you stumble upon John Renie’s extraordinary tombstone. Take a moment to unravel its intricate puzzle, and you’ll discover a man who found a way to turn his final resting place into a captivating enigma for generations to ponder.