A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 15, 2011
Puzzle Palace (Pentagon, National Security Agency nickname)

The Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, is a five-sided building in Arlington County, Virginia that opened in 1943. The Pentagon nickname of “Puzzle Palace (on the Potomac)” has been cited in print since at least 1954. The syndicated newspaper comic strip “Steve Canyon” used the nickname “Puzzle Palace” in 1954, 1957 and 1958.

“Puzzle Palace on the Potomac” has been used to describe the federal government (not necessarily simply the Department of Defense). This sense has been cited in 1951 and in a Ronald Reagan speech in 1961.

The National Security Agency (especially its presence at Fort Meade in Maryland) has also been called a “Puzzle Palace,” The NSA’s “Puzzle Palace” nickname was popularized by the James Bamford book, The Puzzle Palace: A report on America’s most secret agency (1982), but has been cited in print since at least a 1975 Time magazine article.

New York City’s One Police Plaza (opened in the 1970s) has also been nicknamed a “puzzle palace.”

The Pentagon has also been nicknamed “Fort Fumble” (cited in print since 1965-1966).


Wikipedia: The Pentagon
The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, Virginia. As a symbol of the U.S. military, “the Pentagon” is often used metonymically to refer to the Department of Defense rather than the building itself.

Designed by the American architect George Bergstrom (1876–1955), and built by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, general contractor John McShain, the building was dedicated on January 15, 1943, after ground was broken for construction on September 11, 1941. General Brehon Somervell provided the major motive power behind the project; Colonel Leslie Groves was responsible for overseeing the project for the Army.

The Pentagon is the world’s largest office building by floor area, with about 6,500,000 sq ft (604,000 m2), of which 3,700,000 sq ft (344,000 m2) are used as offices. Approximately 23,000 military and civilian employees and about 3,000 non-defense support personnel work in the Pentagon. It has five sides, five floors above ground, two basement levels, and five ring corridors per floor with a total of 17.5 mi (28.2 km) of corridors.

Wikipedia: Steve Canyon
Steve Canyon was a long-running American adventure comic strip by writer-artist Milton Caniff. Launched shortly after Caniff retired from his previous strip, Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon ran from January 13, 1947 until June 4, 1988, shortly after Caniff’s death. Caniff won the Reuben Award for the strip in 1971.
(...)
Characters and story
Steve Canyon was an easygoing adventurer with a soft heart. Originally a veteran running his own air-transport business, the character returned to the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and stayed in the military for the remainder of the strip’s run.

28 January 1951, Kingsport (TN) Times-News, pg. 2A, col. 1:
Government Tries
To Cut Red Tape

Nashville, Tenn.—(AP)—A Federal Munitions Board official says the government is trying to reduce “the red tape of the puzzle palace on the Potomac.”

15 May 1954, Tuscon (AZ) Daily Citizen, “Steve Canyon” comic strip, pg. 48:
“WELL, THERE’S THE GOOD OLD PENTAGON! THE HEAD SHED! THE BIG SPOKE! THE WHEEL HOUSE! POTOMAC PUZZLE PALACE! BLOCK CELL! BAT CAVE ON THE BASIN! CONCRETE CAROUSEL!”

24 September 1957, The Progress (Clearfield, PA), “Steve Canyon” comic strip, pg. 11, col. 1:
“HELLO, STEVE! BACK IN THE PUZZLE PALACE ON THE POTOMAC FOR RESASSIGNMENT?”

16 January 1958, Wall Street Journal, “Pentagon Purchases” by E. K. Faltermayer and T. W. Bush:
After evaluating the problem in terms’of cost and time and the ideas they may have in their bag of technological tricks, the individual companies each present their recommendations to the Pentagon (dubbed the Puzzle Palace by frustrated contractors.)

30 December 1958 New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune, “Steve Canyon” comic strip, pg. 4, col. 4:
“CURLY! I DIDN’T EXPECT TO BE MET ON THE STEPS OF THE PUZZLE PALACE ON THE POTOMAC.”

Google Books
Boring a Hole in the Sky;
Six million miles with a fighter pilot

By Robert Lee Scott
New York, NY: Random House
1961
Pg. 261:
Then they had strolled innocently into “Air Force Country” in the five-sided puzzle palace and visited some of my public relations divisions.

27 September 1961, Oregonian (Portland, OR), “Actor Reagan Attacks Liberal Economic Views,” pg. 15, cols. 3-5:
GEARHART (Special)—A call for a fight against increasing government control and “socialistic” movements was made Tuesday at Gearhart by Ronald Reagan, Hollywood movie and television actor.
(...)
“The federal government is running our tax money through that Puzzle Palace on the Potomac, and then returning it to us, less a carrying charge. This is the enormity of the graduated income tax.”

Google Books
The Space Race;
From Sputnik to Apollo, and Beyond

By Donald William Cox
Philadelphia, PA: Chilton Books
1962
Pg. 173:
In the deep confines of the five-sided Washington “puzzle palace,” known as the Pentagon, the home of the U.S. Defense Department, we have witnessed many shifts in policy, organizational ...

12 August 1962, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Pentagon Inmates Dine on Seafood” by Francis Raffetto, sec. 6, pg. 3:
The Pentagon continues to attract nicknames, some endearing, some not. They range in vintage from the early “Puzzle Palace” to the recent “Disneyland East.”

Google News Archive
2 March 1968, Daytona Beach (FL) Morning Journal, “Mac, Pentagon Say Goodby,”
WASHINGTON (AP)—President Johnson bade “goodby and farewell” to Robert Strange McNamara Thursday.
(...)
“I have heard this place here at the Pentagon referred to as the puzzle palace,” Johnson remarked as he stood bareheaded under an umbrella. Standing in the rain were several thousand persons gathered around the Pentagon’s river entrance.

“Bob McNamara may be the only man who ever found the solution to the puzzle, and he is taking it with him,” Johnson went on.

Google Books
Army Digest
1968
Pg. 57:
After it was built it was variously dubbed a Squirrel Cage, a Puzzle Palace, a Cement Sanitorium, the Pandemonium Palace on the Potomac, Fort Fumble and, most recently, Disneyland East and the Five-Sided Wigwam.

23 August 1972, New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune, sec. 1, pg. 17, col. 6:
PENTAGON HOLDS
MANY NICKNAMES
The Pentagon has many nicknames, which include: The Cement Sanitorium, the Squirrel Cage, the Puzzle Palace, Fort Fumble, Disneyland East and the Pandemonium Palace on the Potomac.

Time magazine
INTELLIGENCE: NSA: Inside the Puzzle Palace
Monday, Nov. 10, 1975
(...)
At its Fort Meade, Md., headquarters, variously known as “Disneyland” and “the Puzzle Palace,” the NSA labors in extraordinary anonymity to monitor communications throughout the world and then decipher the coded messages.

OCLC WorldCat record
The puzzle palace : a report on America’s most secret agency
Author: James Bamford
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1982.
Edition/Format:  Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Assignment: Pentagon : The Insider’s Guide to the Potomac Puzzle Palace.
Author: Perry M Smith
Publisher: New York : Pergamon-Brassey’s International Defense Publishers Inc., 1989.
Edition/Format:  Book : English

Google Books
Murder at the Pentagon
By Margaret Truman
New York, NY: Fawcett Crest
1993
Pg. 7:
“Well, welcome to the Puzzle Palace.”
“Thank you.” The classic nickname for America’s center of national defense, the Pentagon, was one of several. Fort Fumble, the Fudge Factory, the Five-Sided Wailing Wall, were used less frequently.

Google Books
The Silent Service.
Los Angeles Class

By H. Jay Riker
New York, NY: Avon Books
2001
Pg. 34:
Most simply called it “the Building,” but those in a more critical mood referred to it as “the Fudge Factory,” “Fort Fumble,” “the Squirrel Cage,” or — Gordon’s favorite by far — “the Five-Sided Wailing Wall.” “The Puzzle Palace” was a pet name contested by the occupants of the National Security Agency’s huge facility at Fort Meade, Maryland.

Google Books
Victory On The Potomac:
The Goldwater-Nichols Act Unifies The Pentagon

By James R. Locher
College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press
2004
Pg. 88:
Frustrations with this horrendous process sparked fitting nicknames for the Pentagon:  Five-Sided Squirrel Cage, Potomac Puzzle Palace, Disneyland East, Concrete Carousel. When the Defense Department performed poorly, many referred to the Pentagon as Fort Fumble or Malfunction Junction.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Thursday, September 15, 2011 • Permalink