We Found Some Ancient Puzzly Graffiti!

[Image courtesy of Patheos.com.]

The other day, I was perusing Crossword Kathy’s daily news post, and I stumbled across an article with this provocative title: “Ancient crossword puzzle found in Smyrna

Naturally, I clicked, being something of a puzzle historian. (I also looked up “Smyrna” because I wasn’t sure precisely where that is. Turns out it was an ancient Greek city, now known as Izmir, a city in Turkey.)

This puzzle was found on the wall of an old basilica in the marketplace (or agora, for the crossword fans in the audience), and dates back to somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 years old.

[Image courtesy of Patheos.com.]

According to the person in charge of the excavations, Akin Ersoy:

It looks like an acrostic. The same words are defined both top to bottom and left to right in five columns. The word ‘logos’ in the center is said to have been used by a Christian group to communicate with each other during times of oppression. We want to consider this as a puzzle because there are benches in front of these wall paintings. The lives of those who were working here are depicted in these paintings.

Unfortunately, calling this a crossword is a bit of a misnomer. The puzzle is a 5×5 grid where the entries read both across and down. This isn’t a crossword, it’s a word square.

[Pictured above is perhaps the most famous word square in history,
known as the Sator Square. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.]

The Smyrna word square consists of five words, and some researchers believe there’s a Christian message or some religious intent behind the square.

[The full text of the Smyrna square.
Image courtesy of Cryptotheology.wordpress.com.]

The middle word, Logos, for instance, is shaped in a cross, and is believed to represent the incarnation and work of Christ.

But whether this is a religious message or simply some impressive puzzling that has stood the test of time, it’s fascinating to turn up more examples that puzzles in some shape or form have been with us not only for centuries, but for millennia.


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Other puzzles you might not know! (Volume 1)

We’re all puzzle fans here, right? And sometimes we need something new, something fresh and engaging to rejuvenate our love of puzzles. We know all the classics — crosswords, fill-ins, logic puzzles, word seeks, Sudoku, cryptograms, and anagram puzzles — but there’s a whole wide world of puzzles out there to explore that you might not even know about!

So, in today’s post, I’m going suggest some puzzles to check out, based on each of those classic solving experiences.


Let’s start with crosswords.

From the New York Times and LA Times crossword puzzles to the Penny Dell Crossword App, there’s no shortage of terrific crosswords of all difficulty ranges awaiting solvers.

But there are also some terrific variant crosswords for you to try out, like Double Trouble.

[Click here or on the grid for a larger version, complete with clues.]

In a Double Trouble crossword, you can put one, two, or three letters into a box, making for a more difficult solve that the standard one-letter one-box crossword.

But if you want to go a little farther afield, you can try something like Marching Bands.

[Image courtesy of Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website.]

A Marching Bands puzzle has two sets of clues. The first set clues the rows reading across, with two clues per line. But the second set is where things get interesting. See those alternating rings of light and dark shading? The second set clues words reading clockwise along those rings, or bands.

So instead of words meshing across and down, as in a standard crossword, you have across clues and band clues interacting to help you fill the grid. It’s a wonderful variation on familiar crossword rules, but one challenging enough to keep you interested. (For a more in-depth look, click here!)

But maybe you like crossword cluing but you’d like an answer more interesting than just a grid filled with words. Fair enough, have you ever tried Crostics?

[Click here or on the grid for a larger version.]

Crostics, also known as Anacrostics (from our friends at Dell Magazines) or Acrostics (as made by friend of the blog Cynthia Morris), feature a series of clues and letter blanks to be filled.

Those letter blanks each have coordinates assigned, so that when you fill the correct letters into those blanks, you’re also filling blanks in a grid below to spell out a bonus message, quotation, or anecdote. (It’s a one-to-one ratio, so each letter blank corresponds to a letter blank in the grid. If there’s one J in the message, you’ll find a J in the answer words.)

Although you don’t have the overlapping entries to help you puzzle out answers like crosswords or Marching Bands do, you can use the grid below as a solving aid. As each word in the message emerges, you can fill in those letters in the blanks above (using those same coordinates).

And for something along the same vein, you’ve got Word Games Puzzles.

[Click here or on the grid for a larger version.]

You still get the message reading out in a grid and the letter blank coordinates like in Crostics, but instead of a bunch of crossword-style clues, you instead get four mini-games to solve. One might be trivia or encryption, another might involve some wordplay, another might offer themed clues, and the fourth might be an anagram game.

Each will challenge you in different ways, and the use of repeated letters — a change from Crostics with their one-to-one letter blank to grid letter ratio — gives you more than one chance to fill in the final message.

Hopefully, one or more of these puzzles will pique your interests and offer a welcome new solving experience!


Next week, I’ll have recommendations for fans of Fill-In puzzles, and in future installments, we’ll tackle word seeks, logic puzzles, Sudoku, and more! If you’ve got recommendations for your fellow puzzlers, please let us know in the comments!

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You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!