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Word Games - Acrostics & Double Acrostics
Acrostics & Unfashionable word games
Do you ever find that there are lots of good ideas that don't make it, or fall out of favour and fashion? This is no more apparent that in the wonderful world of word games. Word games have been devised and played throughout recorded history, going right back to the Ancient Greeks. More recently, in the 19th century, word games had a real renaissance with all sorts of weird and wonderful games being dreamed up. The latter part of the twentieth century has seen these whittled down to just a few - scrabble, crosswords, word searches and the like. This isn't to say that those games consigned to history (and obscure hobbyist publications) aren't any good, some of them are brilliant, entertaining and informative games and puzzles.
Acrostics in particular have fallen victim to fashion, as they were a precursor to the crossword, and as soon as the latter was invented and entered popular culture in the 1920s and 1930s, the days of acrostics were numbered. Nevertheless, they are a great little word puzzle, and in this article I will attempt to show you why.
What are Acrostics?
Dictionary.com gives the following definition of an Acrostic:
"a series of lines or verses in which the first, last, or other particular letters when taken in order spell out a word,phrase, etc."
A frivolous example might be:
Helpful articles abound
Understated and underated
Bountiful knowledge here exists
Publishing articles so easy is
And making money too
Get rich quick it is not
Easy to begin though it is
So why not have a go?
I'm not a poet, so forgive the lack of any artistry but you get the point - the first letter of each line, when read vertically spells out a word or name, in this case HUBPAGES. Generally each line describes some aspect of the word, though not always.
More often, a puzzle type acrostic has just one word on each line, with a clue for each line and a general clue for the vertical acrostic word. Here's an example, written in a rhyming style.
Here you will find a pinkish hue,
And most would find it tasty too.
1. Sweetly this grows, above or below.
2. A forbidden fruit, tempting long ago.
3. Once empire's capital, now city of money.
4. A king's touch, the colour of honey.
5. Daughter of Polonious, creation of the bard.
6. The general with whom Wellington sparred.
Double Acrostics are the same as acrostics, except that as well as the first letter of each line spelling out a word, the last letter of each line spells out a word too. Here is a good example, purportedly written by Queen Victoria for her children.
A city in Italy
A river in Germany
A town in the United States
A town in North America
A town in Holland
The Turkish name of Constantinople
A town in Bothnia
A city in Greece
A circle on the globe
The first letters spell out the name of a British town, and the last letters, in reverse, spell out what that town is famous for (or was at the time). Answers below, but beware this is tricky, as there's more than one possible answer for a lot of these and a couple are somewhat obscure or archaic!
Triple acrostics are also possible, although much rarer. In these, the middle letters of each word/line spell out a word as well as the first and last letters.
The answers to the first acrostic are:
The answers to Queen Victoria's double acrostic are:
Spelling out 'NEWCASTLE' and 'COAL MINES'.
More Word Games Articles
If you've enjoyed this, you might be interested in reading about Lewis Carroll's Word Ladders.