Intersections of Puzzle and Poetry

The more you look, the more you can find puzzles in all sorts of interesting places. We find them in literature, in historical documents, and in popular culture.

So it should come as no surprise that puzzles can be found in the world of poetry as well.

We’ve covered a few examples where poetry and puzzles have overlapped in the past, whether it’s the creations of Peter Valentine, the works of Edgar Allan Poe, or the art of carmina figurata.

carminafig7

But that’s only scratching the surface.

One of the most common ways that puzzly techniques find their way into poetry is through acrostics. Acrostics spell out messages with the first letter of each line or verse.

One of the most famous is a poem by Lewis Carroll at the end of Through the Looking-Glass where he reveals the identity of the girl who inspired his famous stories:

A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July—

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear—

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die.
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream—
Lingering in the golden gleam—
Life, what is it but a dream?

Carroll certainly offers the most famous example, but I must confess that my favorite example comes from a story on Wikipedia. Poet Rolfe Humphries was banned from Poetry Magazine for life for an acrostic aimed at a diplomat and former president of Columbia University. The acrostic quite bluntly read “Nicholas Murray Butler is a horse’s ass.”

Of course, the message reading down — also known as an acrostich — isn’t the only way these messages can be hidden.

There are also examples of mesostich — where the word or message is spelled with letters in the middle of the verse — and telestich, where the last letters of each line spell a name or message.

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[Image courtesy of Twitter.]

These techniques were also used in ancient Greek inscriptions, where one particular example, AL205, featured acrostich, mesostich, and telestich messages at the same time.

Other puzzly stylings have also allowed poets to flex their wordplay muscles.

For instance, David Shulman wrote a 14-line sonnet about George Washington’s famous river crossing where every line is an anagram of “Washington crossing the Delaware”:

A hard, howling, tossing water scene.
Strong tide was washing hero clean.
“How cold!” Weather stings as in anger.
O Silent night shows war ace danger!

The cold waters swashing on in rage.
Redcoats warn slow his hint engage.
When star general’s action wish’d “Go!”
He saw his ragged continentals row.

Ah, he stands – sailor crew went going.
And so this general watches rowing.
He hastens – winter again grows cold.
A wet crew gain Hessian stronghold.

George can’t lose war with’s hands in;
He’s astern – so go alight, crew, and win!

There are also ABC poems, a form where the goal of each poem is to use words starting with each letter of the alphabet in order. You can find some entertaining and impressive examples here.

Some poets, however, have flipped the puzzle poem on its head by treating the poems like puzzles. The folks at UVA’s Puzzle Poetry group utilize Tetris-like puzzle pieces with words on them to assemble poems.

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[Image courtesy of the University of Virginia.]

The concept dates back to 2017, a creation of Neal Curtis and Brad Pasanek, serving as a way to both explore and deconstruct the art of poetry itself by making a puzzle out of it.

It’s a very cool idea, reminiscent of how magnetic poetry sets allow you to turn your fridge into a canvas by assembling and reworking the order of the various available words.

Puzzles by their very nature are about finding a solution, bringing order out of chaos, whether it’s assembling puzzle pieces, answering devious crossword clues to fill a grid, or unraveling a tricky brain teaser that pushes you to think in a different way.

And since poetry is all about expressing truths in a personal way, it makes a lovely sort of sense that puzzly techniques would intertwine with this thoughtful, elusive form of art.


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Harold and the Hashtag Game edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’m posting the results of our #PennyDellKidsBooks hashtag game!

You may be familiar with the board game Schmovie, hashtag games on Twitter, or@midnight’s Hashtag Wars segment on Comedy Central.

For over a year now, we’ve been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was #PennyDellKidsBooks, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles and anything and everything having to do with picture books, storybooks, kids books, nursery rhymes, anything!

Examples include Oh the Places Please You’ll Go!, Charlotte’s Spider’s Web, and The Giving Three from Nine.

So, without further ado, check out what the puzzlers at PuzzleNation and Penny Dell Puzzles came up with!


The Wonderful Wizard Words of Oz

The Jumble Book

The Tail Tags of Peter Rabbit

Horton Hears a Who’s Calling? / Horton Hears a Sudoku! / Horton Hears a Guess Who! / Horton Hears a Word Games

Gerald McBingo Bingo

The Cat in the Hat Comes Back Around the Block

The Categories in the Hat / The Categories in the Hategories

One and Only Fish, Two by Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
One and Only Fish, Two at a Time Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
Pine Cone Fish, Two by Two Fish, Assembly Required Fish, Blue Fish

Green Eggs and Piggybacks

Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Bookworms

Hopscotch on Pop / Hop on Top to Bottom

Oh Say Can You Say That Again?

How the Grinch Stole Crisscross / How the Grinch Split and Splice Christmas

A Great Day for Ups and Downs

Shuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

Fox In and Around Socks / Fox in Shadowbox

The Very Hungry Caterpill-around the Block / The Very Hungry Bookworm / The Very Hungry Crackers-pillar

Where the Wild Animal Crackers Are / Where and There the Wild Things Are / Where the Wild Wacky Words Are

A Wrinkle in Timed Word Seek / A Wrinkle in Two at a Time

The Secret Word Garden

Mad-End of the Line / MadeLine ‘Em Up

Love You ForEverything’s Relative

Harold and the Purple Pencil Pusher / Harold and the Point-the-Way Crayon

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Wheels Bus / Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Wheels

The Story of Ferdinand and the Bull’s-Eye Spiral

One Morning in Mystery State

Chips for Sal

Harry Potter and the Samurai Sudoku / Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secret Words

Hubcaps for Sale

If You Give A Mouse Crackers / If You Give a Mouse a CooKeyword / If You Give A Mouse a Crostics / If you Give a Mouse a Codeword

Alice in Wonderland: By Another Name: Everything’s Relative All Mixed Up / Alice’s Adventures in Word Seek Land

Goodnight, Sunrays

Are You My Mother? Who’s Calling?

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel Build A Pyramid

Curious George Goes to the Crypto-Zoo

Where the Crossroads End: A Visual Deduction Problem

Crisscross Country Cat

The Windowboxes in the Willows

Patchwords the Bunny / Patmatch the Bunny

Make Word Ways for Ducklings

The Cricket in Times Square Deal

Bob-the-Build(er)-A-Pyramid

These Three Blind Mice

Rub-A-Dub-Dub, These Three Men in a Tub

Snow White and The Seven-Up Dwarfs

Good Night Moon, Good Night Star Words

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider’s Web went up the water spout

Crisscross Moo: Cows that Type

The Dial-a-Grams of a Wimpy Kid

The Little Puzzler That Could / The Logic Problem That Could

James and the Puzzler’s Giant Peach

The Give & Take Tree

The Giver and Take

A Crisscross in Time

Penny and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Decisions

One Topsy-Turvy Crazy Summer Fill-in

Anagrams of Green Gables

The Lion, the Which Way Words and the Wardrobe

The Tales of Uncle Rebus

The Word Maze Runner

The Hardy Boys “Hunting for Hidden Word Squares”

Nancy Drew “The Secret Word at Shadowbox Ranch”

Put me in the Crypto-zoo

The Magic Scrambled Up Bus


Several of my fellow puzzlers went above and beyond with these, launching such gloriously wordy titles as:

Alexander and the “Takeout”, “Hubcaps”, “No-List”, Very “Blips” Day

AND

Make Way for Crackers (er, quackers) as they Crossblocks and Dash-It (Mother Duck heard to quack: Keep On Moving! as they Shuffle along in the Middle Of The Road)

Talk about a mouthful!


And members of the PuzzleNation readership also got in on the fun! On Twitter, @HereLetty submitted Where the Wizard Words Are!

Have you come up with any Penny Dell Kids Books entries of your own? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

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!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: The Wonderful World of Wordplay edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’m posting the results of our #PennyDellPuzzleDisney hashtag game!

You may be familiar with the board game Schmovie, hashtag games on Twitter, or @midnight’s Hashtag Wars segment on Comedy Central.

For the last few months, we’ve been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was #PennyDellPuzzleDisney, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles and anything and everything having to do with characters, songs, theme parks, and all things Disney!

Examples include: The Jungle Bookworms, A Whole New Word Seek, or Lilo & Stretch Letters!

So, without further ado, check out what the puzzlers at PuzzleNation and Penny Dell Puzzles came up with!


Disney Puzzle Films, Shows, and Characters!

Crypto-Family Robinson / Swiss Family Ties Robinson

Beauty and the Beat the Clock / Beauty and the Word Seek

Zoo-Doku-topia

Abacus in Wonderland

The Throwbacks of Notre Dame

The Little Puzzler Mermaid / The Little MerMaze

Buried Treasure Island

101 Associations / A 101 Quotations

The Sword in the Stepping Stones

Mary Stoplines

Escape to Which Way Words Mountain

The Windowbox and the Hound

White Fan’ Words

These Three Musketeers / The Three of a Kind Musketeers

Oliver and Three’s Company

The Lotto King

Crackerella

Al-add-one / AladdIn the Middle

Crisscross-topher Robin

Crackerjacks Sparrow

Pollyanagrams

Peter Panagrams

National Treasure Hunt

Monsters, Incognito

Cruella De-V-Words

Monkeys Go Home Runs

The Lucky Star to the Right

Winnie-the-Pooh and the Honey-comb Tree

The Three Little Piggybacks

Off with her Heads & Tails

Cross Aristocats

The Jumble Book

Disney’s Into the Tanglewoods

Sheriff Callie’s Wild Window Boxes

Mickey Mouse Cryptohouse

Minnie’s Mixed Bag of Tricks!

Pluto in the Round

Snow Whitelines and The Shadow Dwarfs


Disney Theme Park Puzzles!

The Wonderful Codeword of Disney

Anagram Magic Kingdom / Animal Crackers Kingdom

Epcot In the Middle (or is it center???…)

The Carousel of Progress-ions

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spinwheel


Disney Song Puzzles!

“When You Wish Upon a Starspell”

“Whistle While You Framework”

“Be Our Guest Star Framework”

“The Pairs Necessities”

“Some Day My Printout Will Come”

“Under the ABC’s”

“It’s a Small Change (After All)”

“Can You Paint with All the Color by Numbers of the Wind?” / “Color of the Wind-ow Boxes”

“Circles in the Square of Life” / “The Full Circle of Life”

“Do You Want to Build-A-Pyramid?”

“Let It Go Fish”

“Heigh Ho HeigHocus Pocus”

“A Whole New Whirlybird”

“Song of the North South”

“You’ll Fill-In My Heart”

“Little Puzzler Showers”

“Step by Step in Time”

“Kakuro Matata”

“Be True To Your Hearts and Flowers”

“Bibbidi Bobbidi Boomerang” / “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Book” / “Bippity-Boppity-Bookworms”

“Zip-It Dee Doo Dah, Zip-It Dee Ay!
My oh my what a Number-Jumble day!
Plenty of Sunrays Headings my way!
Zip-It Dee Doo Dah, Zip-It Dee Ay!”


Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle Disney entries of your own? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

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!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Halloween Answers edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday! Last week, we had two terrific Halloween-themed games for you, and it’s time to reveal the answers!

First up, it’s our Johnny Depp Cosplay Challenge! I posted this picture and challenged you to identify elements from as many Johnny Depp roles or films as possible:

  • The Lone Ranger / Tonto: bird on head, sheriff’s star
  • Edward Scissorhands: scissorhand
  • Dark Shadows / Barnabas Collins: long vampire nails/claws on other hand
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas / Raoul Duke: sunglasses, cigarette holder, camera
  • Pirates of the Caribbean / Captain Jack Sparrow: bandanna, coat, beads in beard
  • Alice in Wonderland / Mad Hatter: socks, scarf hanging from his pocket, pocket watch on chain
  • The Tourist / Frank Tupelo: bow tie, tuxedo vest

Did I miss anything?


Secondly, it’s time to reveal the puns behind our annual PuzzleNation Punderful Costume Game!

We challenged you to figure out these clever costumes, so let’s see how you did!

#1

She’s the Life of the Party!

#2

They’re the Spice Girls!

#3

He’s the guy that walks into the bar!

#4 (the gentleman next to Woody from Toy Story)

He’s Maroon 5!

#5 (under the red arrow)

She’s a copycat!

#6

He’s a formal apology!

#7

The one on the left is Oh Deer! and the one on the right is Holy Cow!

#8

She’s the Lorde of the Rings!

#9

She’s Ariana Grande! (R E on a grande)

#10

She’s someone you can count on!


Special thanks to the folks at The Chive and The Thinking Closet for their assistance in compiling this year’s punny costumes!

How many did you get? Have you seen any great punny costumes we missed? Let us know!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

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!

Carroll’s classic conundrum!

After my post on Brain Melters (the diabolical siblings of brain teasers), I’ve had riddles on the brain, one in particular.

There’s a famous riddle that compares a raven and a writing desk. It was first penned by the brilliant, controversial, and utterly ridiculous Lewis Carroll.

The Hatter asked Alice, “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”
“I give up,” Alice replied. “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter.
Alice sighed wearily. “I think you might do something better with the time,” she said, “than waste it in asking riddles that have no answers.”

It was purposely devised as a riddle with no answer — prime Brain Melter territory — but that hasn’t stopped people from trying to solve it in various silly, pragmatic, and clever ways through the years.

A practical answer is “They both have legs”, but not only is that terribly boring, but it seems to abruptly ignore Carroll’s legacy of whimsy and logodaedaly.

(Come on, it wouldn’t be a truly Lewis Carroll-worthy post without some curious vocabulary. *smiles* And a pat on the back to those who didn’t have to look it up!)

Many people have incorporated assonance, rhyme, and wordplay into their solves. Here are some of the possible solutions people have conjured over the years:

–It is used to carry on work and work carrion.
–Because the raven has a secret aerie and the writing desk is a secretary.
–It understands its tails and quills would nevar [sic] work with the wrong end in front. (This is a variation on the answer Carroll eventually provided)

Carroll himself was quoted as saying that a raven is like a writing-desk “because it can produce very few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar [sic] put with the wrong end in front.”

Despite Carroll’s typically obtuse and curious response, several sources have stated that the correct answer is that “dark wing site” is an anagram for “a writing desk”.

Ignoring all of these possible solutions, I prefer the one I consider the most simple, the most clever, and the most sensible…

How is a raven like a writing desk? Poe wrote on both. =)

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