enigma

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Related to enigmas: riddles

a riddle wrapped in an enigma

That which is so dense and secretive as to be totally indecipherable or impossible to foretell. It is a shortened version of a line used by Winston Churchill to describe the intentions and interests of Russia in 1939: "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest." Many versions, variations, and appropriations of the quote, its structure, and its meaning have since been in use. I can't make any sense of this calculus textbook, it's like a riddle wrapped in an enigma. I just don't have any idea what Mary expects from me; she's a riddle wrapped in an enigma.
See also: enigma, riddle, wrap

a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma

That which is so dense and secretive as to be totally indecipherable or impossible to foretell. It is from a line used by Winston Churchill to describe the intentions and interests of Russia in 1939: "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest." Many versions, variations, and appropriations of the quote, its structure, and its meaning have since been in use. Political campaigns make my head hurt. They're just a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
See also: enigma, inside, wrap
References in periodicals archive ?
If attention to enigma as a basic literary category has waned since then, interest in the thing itself has not, and could be said to have increased sharply in twentieth-century literature.
Augustine's insight into enigma on the largest scale inspires Cook's development, in chapter 3, of enigma as "masterplot" a term she borrows from Terence Cave's Recognitions to mean a plot whose outcome is guaranteed by a certain view of the order of the world.
Because she was accustomed to living in a world of paradox, she made paradox the basic thrust of the Enigmas.
Ronnie Kon came tantalizingly close, in the August Word Ways, to identifying the long-sought intended solution to Eliza Hurst's 1782 Ladies' Diary enigma.