Acrostic (puzzle)

An acrostic is a type of word puzzle, related somewhat to crossword puzzles, that uses an acrostic form. It typically consists of two parts. The first part is a set of lettered clues, each of which has numbered blanks representing the letters of the answer. The second part is a long series of numbered blanks and spaces, representing a quotation or other text, into which the answers for the clues fit. In some forms of the puzzle, the first letters of each correct clue answer, read in order from clue A on down the list, will spell out the author of the quote and the title of the work it is taken from; this can be used as an additional solving aid.

An example

For example, two clues in the first part might be:

A. Country of the Rising Sun: _____
B. Not doing anything: ____

The second part is initially blank:

____ ___ ____ ____ __ ___ ____
1234 567 891011 12131415 1617 181920 21222324

If the answer to clue A is JAPAN, then the second part fills in as follows:

_A__ A__ J___ __N_ _P ___ ____
1234 567 891011 12131415 1617 181920 21222324

Letters 16 and 17 form a two-letter word ending in P. Since this has to be UP, letter 16 is a U, which can be filled into the appropriate clue answer in the list of clues. Likewise, a three-letter word starting with A could be and, any, all, or even a proper name like Ann. One might need more clue answers before daring to guess which it could be.

If the answer to clue B is IDLE, one could narrow down the 5/6/7 word to AND and the following word starting with JI. Some people might already begin to recognize the phrase "Jack and Jill went up the hill."


In this primal acrostic the words are pictured instead of described. When the seven objects have been rightly guessed and written one below another, the initial letters will spell the surname of a famous man. (published in St. Nicholas Magazine (1873)

Elizabeth Kingsley is credited with inventing the puzzle for Saturday Review in 1934, under the name double-crostic. Since then, other nonce words ending in "-crostic" have been used. Anacrostic may be the most accurate term used, and hence most common, as it is a portmanteau of anagram and acrostic, referencing the fact that the solution is an anagram of the clues, and the author of the quote is hidden in the clues acrostically. Later Saturday Review constructors were Doris Nash Wortman, Thomas Middleton, and Barry Tunick. Thomas Middleton also produced many puzzles for Harpers Magazine. Kingsley, Wortman, and Middleton created additional puzzles for The New York Times from 1952–1999, but not more than one every other week. Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon took over for the NYT in 1999. A similar puzzle, called a Trans-O-Gram, by Svend Petersen, and later, Kem Putney, appeared in National Review from 1963–1993. Trans-O-Grams were often themed puzzles, with clues related to the quote. The name Duo-Crostic was used by the LA Times for puzzles by Barry Tunick and Sylvia Bursztyn. Charles Preston created Quote-Acrostics for the Washington Post. Charles Duerr, who died in 1999, authored a many "Dur-acrostic" books and was a contributor of acrostics to the Saturday Review. Duerr's and Middleton's were among the most challenging acrostics ever constructed.

External links

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