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Meet The Man Who Writes Cryptic Puzzles On Envelopes To Test Royal Mail

Designer James Addison has been testing the puzzle-solving abilities of Royal Mail with cryptic clues and games written on envelopes. Every single one was delivered to the right destination. Via Puzzles for Postmen.

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1. He asked the postie to read just the first letter of every word.

Addison told us he's been sending the envelopes for the last five years, one every few months, and always avoiding the most busy times for the post office. He was inspired by Harriet Russell, who used everything from sign language to dot-to-dot puzzles to test posties' brainpower, as chronicled in her 2008 book Envelopes.

2. He drew a pigeon and wrote a little story about him.

"I am biased, being English, but I think it's the best postal service in the world," he says. "I don't think any other service would tolerate this kind of eccentricity. You really get the idea that it's a very slick service but there's a human essence to them."


3. He wrote an address in a spiral across the whole envelope.

Addison says he once sent an envelope with not just one but three addresses written on it, along with some brief biographical details for the three possible recipients, and asked the postie to choose which person should receive it.

Various postal workers had written their own suggestions on the envelope as it made its way through the system, and the winning person's name was circled in pink crayon.


12. On this one, postal workers had to take part in a game of Hangman to figure out the address.

Addison says he's giving up the cryptic letter-writing for now – at least for that address, as it has become too well-known. Also, he stresses that this was an experiment that shouldn't be repeated by others, "because if it's an important letter, it might not get there".