I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the power of words, and rightly so. Words are the foundation of civilization. They’re how we communicate, how we express ourselves, how we interpret and process and quantify the world around us.
And playing with them is a cornerstone of entertainment. Jokes and puns depend on wordplay, as do riddles, brain teasers, and so many puzzles. Whether they’re being crossed, anagrammed, or shared with friends on an online Scrabble board, words are puzzle power.
That’s true even of letters. A single letter can not only speak volumes, it can be the key to unlocking an entire puzzle.
For instance, let’s talk crosswords. Knowing one across entry is a plural often allows you to place an S, giving you an anchor for the down entry that crosses it.
Cryptograms often offer a single letter as a hook to get you started. In addition, anytime you see a lone letter in a quote, you know it’s an I or an A.
Numerous anagram puzzles involve adding a single letter to a word, anagramming the result, and getting something new and unexpected.
That sort of letter addition reminds me of a brain teaser:
There’s a word in the English language in which the first 2 letters signify a male, the first 3 signify a female, the first 4 signify a great man, and the whole word signifies a great woman. What is that word?
In all of these examples, single letters are part of a greater puzzle. But what about puzzles composed entirely of single letters?
Easy. I can think of two.
In the first, single letters are the first letters of words forming some sort of pattern. Can you deduce the pattern AND provide the next entry in the series?
- O, T, T, F, F, S, S, E, ?
- J, F, M, A, M, J, J, A, S, O, N, ?
- S, M, H, D, W, M, ?
- M, V, E, M, J, S, U, ?
- D, K, P, C, O, F, G, ?
In the second, the single letters are still the first letters of words, but we’ve added numbers and it’s up to you to deduce what the letters represent.
- 3 F in a Y
- 366 D in a LY
- 12 S in the Z
- 4 Q in a D
- 13 C in a S
All of this, sprung from a single letter. Pretty impressive, isn’t it? No wonder we can accomplish so much with words, given building blocks like these.
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