Sunday, April 28, 2019

Acrostics in the Google era

        Gone are the days when a clue such as "WBO heavyweight champion June 2007-February 2008" would be thought unfairly difficult. Google or Wikipedia can come up with the answer to that in seconds.

        As a compiler, I live with that obvious fact (having no choice!) but I try to think of a few Google-proof clues if I can. Acrostic #1, that I published today, is not a particularly good example, but Googling has its problems for words B, G and R.

        I also do the converse—that is, provide a few write-in clues that don't even need Google, just to give my solvers confidence. I consider words D, H, M, N and maybe W to be in that category but others may disagree. General Knowledge is a tricky thing, and depends a lot on one's origins, interests and memory-power.

        The "middling" clues yield quickly to Google/Wikipedia if that's what you fancy. Word U is a good example. If solvers wish to have a personal "No-Google" rule, I say "Good idea". As a solver, as opposed to compiler, I generally start off with a No-Google rule but often succumb to the temptation when I'm stuck.

Welcome to the acrostics blog, Here's acrostic #1

On this blog I aim to provide new acrostic puzzle challenges roughly monthly, with the solutions to be posted two weeks after the puzzle. Here's the first acrostic:

Instructions for those new to acrostic puzzles

An acrostic comes in two parts—a diagram and a word list. The cells in the diagram are numbered sequentially from 1 to (in this case) 211, reading left-to-right line by line just like a book. When solved, the diagram and the word list will contain exactly the same set of 211 letters, but arranged differently.

The diagram will contain a quote from a certain book, with black cells delineating the words. The first letters of the words in the word list, reading top-to-bottom, will spell out the author and title of the book quoted.

Write in what words you can from the clues given. Transfer each letter into the diagram, using the number under each letter as the cell number. Make a few guesses, such as that plural words end in S (usually), and single-letter words are either A or I (again, usually). After a while, you should start to guess at words in the diagram. Complete these words and transfer the new letters backwards into the word list, using the letter in each cell as a guide to the word they belong to.

Success at acrostics depends on inspired guesswork, and liberal use of the eraser. Have fun.