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How to Solve Acrostics

by Parker Lewis

An acrostic puzzle, sometimes called a double crostic, consists of two parts — a grid and clues. Each letter in the puzzle appears in two places: once in the grid and once in one of the clue answers. Work back and forth between the grid and clues to complete the puzzle. The completed grid will reveal some interesting text, usually a quotation, joke, or excerpt of some kind. Reading the first letters of the clue answers (literally, an acrostic) will reveal a relevant phrase, usually the author and/or source of the text.

Grid

The grid consists of sequentially numbered cells with the individual words separated by blocks. If a word comes to the end of a row, it will continue at the start of the next row below, unless the next row starts with a block. Notice that each cell in the grid contains a number and a small letter. The letter indicates in which clue answer the number appears. Whenever you fill in a cell in the grid, the corresponding cell in a clue answer will be filled in for you (if you're solving on paper, you'll have to transfer the letter by hand). In the partial grid below, the first word is eight letters long with the first letter appearing in the answer to clue E, the second letter appearing in the answer to clue B, and so on.

Clues

Acrostic clues are not numbered, but rather referred to alphabetically: clue A, clue B, and so on. Enter the answer to the clue in the spaces provided for that clue. The number of spaces indicate the length of each answer. In the example clue below, the answer to "Mechanical action film title character" is a seven-letter word. Notice that each space has a number, which correspond with the numbers in the grid. Whenever you fill in a cell in a clue answer, the corresponding cell in the grid will be filled in for you (if you're solving on paper, you'll have to transfer the letter by hand). Since the numbers in each clue answer are not consecutive, the letters will be scattered about when they are transferred to the grid. In the clue below, the first letter will be transferred to cell number 75, the second letter will be transferred to cell number 137, and so on.

Solving

Since you initially have no information as to how to fill the grid, you will have to first rely on figuring out some clue answers. As with a crossword, try to find a clue or two which you definitely know the answer to. After transferring enough letters from clue answers, you might start to recognize potential words in grid. Look for letter patterns and common words to start piecing together the text. For example, say you have figured out the answers to the clues A, B, E, and R. The first word in the example grid would be partially completed: --OTB-L-. Since that is an uncommon letter pattern, you can be fairly certain the word is FOOTBALL and fill in the other four cells to complete the word. This also means that you now have four more letters in clue answers: an F appearing in the answer to clue E, an O appearing in the answer to clue B, and so on.

At other times, the word in the grid might not be so obvious. In the second row of the example, the letter pattern -T- has more than one obvious option, including ATE, ETA, ITS, NTH, and others. In cases like this, going back and forth between the grid and the clues can be helpful. For example, it may be clear that the answer to clue N must have a vowel where the letter in cell number 27 goes. This will help narrow down the possibilities. You can also use the words before and after as context clues to determine the most likely options.

Other Tips

  • Punctuation is not normally shown in the grid, except for apostrophes, hyphens and sometimes quotes.
  • Examine the one-, two-, or three-letter words in the grid. There are not many options that will work in those spots.
  • Look for common letter patterns to help deduce what missing letters could be.
  • Look for common prefixes or suffixes: ANTI-, MIS-, RE-, TRANS-, -ABLE, -ED, -ING, -LY, -NESS, etc.
  • If there are few options for a certain cell in the grid, test them out in the clue answers to see which might be the best guess. For example, the missing letter in the pattern G-ANT can only be I or R, so trying each of those letters in the corresponding clue answer may help you decide which it is.
  • Remember that the first letters of the clue answers are an acrostic which spells out a phrase of some sort. When enough of the clues have been answered, you may be able to infer the starting letters of unanswered clues.

Hints

If all else fails, don’t forget you can get hints by tapping on the light bulb icon and revealing a letter in the grid or in a clue. It’s not cheating to ask for a hint — the goal is to have fun, so if asking for a hint increases your enjoyment, feel free.

 
 

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