This is a true story
“In 1934, The Observer’s crossword writer, Edward Powys Mathers, wrote a unique novel Cain’s Jawbone. The title, referring to the first recorded murder weapon, was written under his pen name Torquemada. The story was not only a murder mystery but one of the hardest and most beguiling word puzzles ever published.”
Cain’s Jawbone was a 100 page novel/ puzzle presented in loose-leaf. The book had no binding, the pages were simply stacked. The goal was to deduce the proper order of the pages… and there were 32,000,000 possible permutations of the pages.
Back when it was originally released, only 2 people were confirmed to have solved the puzzle. The solution, however, was never made public.
Crowdfunding A Recreation
In 2017, a crowdfunding project was launched to reproduce Cain’s Jawbone.
Along with 826 other people, I backed it. It took a few years, but it exists now.
Solving Cain’s Jawbone
I’ve spent a bit of time rummaging through Cain’s Jawbone without any serious solving intent. It’s a whole lot of puzzle. It would require a level of time commitment and intensity that I simply do not have. I knew this when I backed it… My contribution was because I liked the idea of this puzzle existing.
Maybe one day in retirement I’ll find the time to solve something this deep; I mean that without a hint of hyperbole.
Since I cannot review this product, I am going to share a few observations to help you decide if you want to buy this puzzle.
It’s from the early 1930s and that comes with a two big implications:
- There are a lot of antiquated references that I suspect you’ll have to research if you want to solve the puzzle.
- It uses phrases that are generally deemed offensive today.
On that note – yes – Edward Powys Mathers’ use of the moniker “Torquemada,” presumably in reference to the first Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition, seems a strange choice almost a century later. One might call it unexpected.
Solving Cain’s Jawbone is going to require a hefty mix of obsession, time, and organization. I love that it exists, it’s fun to peruse, and I like having it on my shelf staring at me and me thinking, “maybe one day…” but that I’ll likely never solve it.
If this sounds like the kind of challenge or conversation piece that you’d like to own, buy a copy of Cain’s Jawbone while you can.