Double Acrostics


April 4, 2014 by KWills

The letter D (or: You’re Just Showing Off Now, Admit It)

Poets will often think long and hard about the exact words to use; not only is the precise meaning important, but the length, rhythm and sound of the word must be taken into consideration. Pondering for hours over word choice and meaning is the mark of a poet – or a crossword compiler.

People who delight in language often enjoy word-puzzles; if nothing else they serve to expand your vocabulary, and often require you to think about familiar things in new ways. All grist to the mill for writers, of any stamp. Acrostics begin to cross the line between poem and puzzle, and you are well into puzzler territory when you expand the rules to include double acrostics; that is poems where the last letter of each line also makes a word or phrase.

Lewis Carroll was a big fan of these puzzle poems, and has been called the “Master of the Acrostic”. He did write traditional acrostic poems, where the first letter of each line spells out a word, name, or phrase; but he also wrote many riddle-type poems that served as clues to acrostic puzzles. These ingenious word-games were popular in the mid- to late-nineteenth century, and were often published in books, much like crossword collections today. See here for a few examples of Carroll’s puzzle-poems, together with their solutions.

Since there are two kinds of double acrostic, it seemed only fair that I attempt to write one of each. I’ll keep it short, and post the answer to the “puzzle” version in tomorrow’s post. First, though, a straight-forward double-acrostic using the key words from the name of this blog (a bit self-aggrandizing, I know, but in my defence it’s not a very good poem…)

Building a Bug or a Mini
Innards beat anything seen;
Grinding from page one to finis
Gin may be needed – or genii
Edits and re-writes, and D-
Rejected again – that’s me.

Writing about a Victorian craze, I seem to be channelling an old-fashioned muse. Unintentional, but somehow fitting. Now on to the puzzle, with poetic clues:

The first verse gives the two “down” clues, and the second gives the four “across” clues. The down words are four letters each, but there is no hint as to the length of the across clues, only that they are single words.

Temporary accommodation,
Or a slight effeminization;
Though it may be very small,
Scarcely to be seen at all.

May you find a friend of honour
Where this challenge has its founder.
Like conquering this, winning feels good
Unless, perhaps, you’re made of wood.

Have fun, and submit your answers in the comments. The solution will be posted tomorrow. Writing puzzles is even harder than writing poems or novels. My respect for the Guardian regulars just went up another peg.


14 thoughts on “Double Acrostics

  1. Alex Hurst says:

    Oh god, THAT’s what that kind of poem is called. Poe wrote a truly awful one… “A Valentine”, which is on Youtube here:

    Alex Hurst, fantasy author in Japan, participating in Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

    • K. Willsen says:

      Yeah, that’s a bad poem. Kind of makes me feel better about my own drivel, actually. Thanks! (Literary schadenfreude: The pleasure of finding writing that is worse than your own.)

      • Alex Hurst says:

        XD That phrase is definitely going to find a home in my lexicon. And no problem! (I recently reviewed all of Poe’s works, and I just remember rolling my eyes at that one. :P)

  2. Blimey, that’s tricky stuff.
    It takes a special level of still to do double acrostics. I have trouble enough with traditional ones.

  3. Aditi says:

    I liked Bigger a lot!! Don’t know what you were talking about calling it not very good! 😉
    The puzzle is very tricky….I am finding it tough. I’ll think and come back on this….but hats off…you have done a superb job!

  4. The first two lines of the first verse lead me to “camp”. This is really hard! Sue’s Trifles

  5. Do the across answers start with the letters of the down word? If so, I cannot find another word going down. Sue

    • K. Willsen says:

      Yes, the across answers start with the letters of the first down clue (which you have right). The across answers are of different lengths, but they end in the letters of the second down clue. The two down words are connected, if that helps.

  6. I paraphrased the final clue to hubby and he said, “Pinnochio”. Sue

    • K. Willsen says:

      That’s the answer I had in mind. It was only later that I realised “Piano” was just as valid. I’m glad you enjoyed the puzzle, and thanks for posting your thoughts.

      Your blog seems like the perfect place for people who love language. I’m going to enjoy browsing through the archives.

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