FAQ for Sue Gleason's Double Crostic Page
by Sue Gleason; edited by Christine McShane
Double Crostic Puzzles
Q. What is this puzzle?
A. Originally called a Double Crostic, this puzzle type has been called Acrostic Puzzle, Quote-Acrostic, and Trans-O-Gram, among other names. On this site, I call them Double Crostics.
Q. Is it old? Who invented it?
A. This type of puzzle was invented by Elizabeth Kingsley and first published in the Saturday Review in 1934. Later Saturday Review constructors were Doris Nash Wortman, Thomas Middleton, and Barry Tunick.
Q. How do you solve it?
A. The letters of an interesting quotation are scrambled to make up a list of unrelated words. Clues are given to this word list, the letters of which are keyed back to the letters in the quotation. The puzzle is solved when the quotation and the word list are entirely filled in. In addition, the initial letters of the word list spell out the author's name and source of the quotation.
Q. It seems so complicated--and difficult.
A. Actually, double crostics are more complicated to explain than to solve. And they are no more difficult than a challenging crossword puzzle. There are three ways to guess: the word list, the quotation, and the author and title acrostic. So it's more interactive than a crossword puzzle. And the quotation usually provides a more satisfying solution.
Q. I still don't get it. How do I start?
A. Here is an adaptation of the original Saturday Review directions:
The puzzle has three parts: the quotation grid, the word list, and the definitions. Read the definitions, entering your answers in the word list. You only need a few answers to start. Each letter in the word list is duplicated in the quotation grid. If you recognize a word in the quote, fill that in, and it will help you with the word list. When the squares are all filled in, you will find, reading across in the left-hand box, a quotation from a printed work. Reading up and down the letters means nothing! But the initial letters of the words in the word list spell the name of the author and the title of the piece from which the quotation has been taken.
Q. I've seen these puzzles in the newspaper, and all the spaces have numbers and letters attached. How come yours don't?
A. The software program takes the drudgery out of filling in each letter in two places. As soon as you stick a letter in the quotation grid, it shows up in the right spot on the word list. As soon as you guess a letter in the word list, it appears in the quotation. No need for numbers and letters; a color code keeps your eye on the right space for each. And by the same token, erasing a letter in one place makes it disappear in the other.
Q. What kinds of strategies work?
A. The clues may be difficult or ambiguous, and at first you may only be able to answer a few. However, you can also attack the quote directly, as in the pencil-and-paper word game Hangman or the TV game Wheel of Fortune. You are using cryptographic skills as well as vocabulary and general knowledge. Usually, to be successful with a puzzle, you will need to answer about half a dozen clues at the outset. If necessary, you can use reference works, online or otherwise.
Beginners think they need the answers to all the clues to begin. Not true! In fact, some experienced acrostic solvers may not need to answer any of the clues, but be able to derive the quote directly based on its patterns. If I see spaces in the pattern ■-■--■■---■ in the quote, I might fill in "I do not" with no other information--a pure leap-of-faith type guess. It is very easy to remove incorrect guesses later: just blank them out by hitting the spacebar.
In the second stage, after you have some letters filled in, work with the letters you've got in the quote to guess whole words in the quote, based on your knowledge of word and sentence structure. Also, you may find that some of the answers you guessed give unlikely combinations in the quote--for example, a two-letter word kj or a word ending in q. You'll probably want to blank out the answer responsible.
Another approach to learning is to work one of the older puzzles, which are programmed to give hints. When you get stuck, enter a question mark in the space to get a one-letter hint.
Like most challenging things, solving double crostics gets easier with practice.
Q. What do I do when I am stumped?
A. Don't give up yet! Because it is easy to erase, you can afford to try out guesses--even wild ones. A pattern will often emerge that you can pursue in the quote. Then you delete guesses that turn out to be wrong.
Q. What happens next?
A. According to member Wayne Hathaway:
"For me, the big breakthrough comes when I can get a sense of the CONTEXT of the quote. Does it talk about American politics? Big game hunting in Africa? Some figure from English literature? Once I get that CONTEXT, I feel I am almost home free. Also along the same lines, there are frequently REPEATED WORDS in the quote (usually relating to the context). For example, I worked one last night that talked about the use of language within a peer-group as a way of keeping outsiders at a distance. The word "peer-group" appeared TWICE in the quote, so once I had "P__R-GR__P" in one place and "_EER-___UP" in another, it was easy to see what was going on. Of course, that then gave me more of the context (no sense thinking about elephant-hunting or corrupt senators; we're dealing with a different context)."
Q. If I give up, can I find out the solution?
A. On archived puzzles that are at least a week old, click the Verify button on the top line. Incorrect letters will appear in red.
Q. Do the names of the puzzles mean anything? (question submitted by Greg O'Rear)
A. The puzzles have the kind of names they do because I need to identify each one during the construction period with an ID that continues through the publication period. At the time construction begins on a puzzle, I don't know when it will be finished, so I can't number it yet, since the number sequence depends on the publication date.
The names are supposed to remind me in some way of which quote they refer to, without being a giveaway hint to the player. Usually the name is a synonym or antonym of a single word in the quote. I guess this could be another contest--you send me your idea of the derivation of the puzzle name, and I'll send you the actual derivation. Keep in mind that other constructors use different naming schemes.
Q. Who makes the puzzles?
A. The puzzles are constructed by members, who compete in solving them.
Double Crostic Program
Q. I can't get anything to happen. Why?
A. You need a java-enabled browser to make the java program work. The HTML players work on devices with HTML5 support.
Q. I have one. Why is nothing happening?
A. Click on a square; then type a letter in it.
Q. How do I erase a letter?
A. Use the spacebar, (like typing a blank on a typewriter), the delete key, or backspace.
Q. What keystrokes can I use?
A. Only letters, spacebar, arrow keys, backspace, and delete. Also, left mouse click.
Q. How do I change my location?
A. Use mouse or arrow keys to change location.
Q. How do I get a hint?
A. On most puzzles, if you type a question mark (?), you get a one-letter hint. Exceptions are the current contest classic puzzle.
Q. Why doesn't the cursor skip to the next empty space when I type?
A. The programs use the "typeover" edit model. If you are filling in a word, just start at the right place and type it. Whatever letters were underneath will simply be "typed over", just as if they were blanks. So you need not look at the screen to skip over letters already there, once you've started a word.
Please note: only letters are entered in these puzzles. All punctuation marks (including dashes, ellipsis, etc.) are omitted. The quote grid is preset with spaces between words and with hyphens between parts of hyphenated compound words.
Q. Can I make the letters larger?
For the HTML player, just click on the puzzle and then
expand it by clicking on the shift and plus keys. For the JAVA player, Click on the bigger (+) button in the top left corner. If the puzzle gets too big, use the smaller (-) button. You must be able to see the entire enclosing rectangle without scrolling.
Q. I can't get upper case letters without caps lock!
A. Try lower case instead.
Q. How do I know which is the selected square?
A. The left-hand black border is thicker, and all squares in the word are color coded.
A. Some people just enjoy competition. You can ignore it if you want. There are no prizes, other than recognition on the site.
Q. How do I sign up?
A. Select a userid--alphabetic only!--and password for www.doublecrostic.com. Choose frivolous codes, rather than ones you use for important business.
Q. Are there any other benefits of membership?
A. Casual members get to play an unlimited number of archived puzzles. Full members get to construct their own puzzles, comment on each other's puzzles, and compete for speed solving on the latest puzzles. If you have been a casual member for a while, email me if you would like to upgrade to full membership. If you like solving double crostics, you might be surprised at how enjoyable constructing them is. And members are very supportive of new constructors' efforts.