Making Wordplay Magic with Word Squares!

[The Smyrna word square, uncovered as a bit of puzzly graffiti in 2016.]

Have you ever tried to make a word square, fellow puzzlers? It’s an intriguing twist on crossword-style construction, except the words you place read both across and down in the grid.

For instance, a five-letter word square could read:

WATER
AWARE
TALON
ERODE
RENEW

As you can see, 1-Across is also 1-Down, 2-Across is also 2-Down, and so on. (Appropriately enough, our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles have a puzzle involving this puzzly trope, and they call it “Across and Down”)

Word Squares have been around for centuries. One of the most famous is dated all the way back to 79 AD in Pompeii (though it has been found in other places throughout history), and is known as the Sator Square:

Not only is it a word square, but it’s a palindrome as well!

It’s a neat little linguistic challenge, and as you might expect, they become more difficult to construct the larger they get.

But physicist, computer programmer, and all-around word enthusiast Eric Tentarelli might’ve cracked the code to making word squares in heretofore impossible sizes…

Doing so in Latin.

In the introduction to his WordWays article “Large Word Squares in Latin,” Tentarelli explains:

Large word squares have been pursued in many languages, but large word squares in Latin appear to have remained unexplored, despite the form’s origins in ancient Rome and despite the benefits offered by Latin inflectional endings.

New word squares constructed in Latin are shown to surpass in size those created in other languages to date, most notably by attaining the holy grail of logology: the first known non-tautonymic ten-squares consisting entirely of solid, uncapitalized words in a single language.

So, what does he mean? Well, essentially, people have been able to pull off word squares of impressive size — 8×8, 9×9, and 10×10 — but not without using certain undesirable words and word variants.

Those variants would include hyphenated words, tautonyms (scientific names where the same words is used twice, like vulpes vulpes for “red fox”), and capitalized words, aka proper nouns. Also, some puzzlers have mixed languages in order to create these word squares, similar to crossword constructors getting themselves out of a tough corner by using a European river.

Ideally, you want a word square consisting of, as he says, solid uncapitalized words in a single language.

Like this:

tentarelli

Say hello to the first verified 11×11 word square in a single language.

“I produced these squares by selecting final rows that combined to produce common endings and therefore maximize the chance of completing the rest of the grid.”

By compiling lists from reliable, verifiable dictionary sources and building a database of potential words, Tentarelli gave himself a strong base to start with.

But by choosing Latin as the language of choice, he significantly increased his chances of success. Thanks to “its extensive and overwhelmingly regular system of inflectional endings,” Latin was an excellent choice for word squares, which are commonly constructed by placing the bottom words first and building upward from there.

From David Brooks’ article in The Concord Monitor about Tentarelli’s work:

English has some endings that finish up on many words, “-ING” being the most obvious example. but Latin has plenty more including some that extend to four and even five letters, which makes it easier to find word squares. “In Latin, if the words in the bottom rows combine to produce nothing but common inflectional endings, such as -NTUR or -ATIS, there is good reason to hope the remainder of the square may be filled,” he wrote.

tintorelli 2

[Four 10×10 word squares built from the same three final words.]

It’s honestly mind-blowing and so inspiring to see what puzzlers can achieve by combining their own linguistic insights with the processing power of computers.

Tentarelli has helped push an ancient style of puzzling to places it has never gone before, and he managed to do so in the original language. How cool is that?

And he’s not done. Apparently, he’s working on a 12×12 square now.

There’s no telling how much farther he could go in the future.


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Answers to Our Holiday Trivia Countdown

holiday trivia

Yesterday, we posted twenty-four questions about various holiday-related topics like carols, reindeer, food, and Yuletide historical moments, creating our own little advent calendar countdown to Christmas.

So naturally, the right thing to do is offer the answers to you on Christmas Day! You can call it the gift of knowledge, or the gift of satisfaction when you get the questions right, or the gift of a quick and easy read on a Friday. Whatever you like.

Without further ado, and with our halls properly decked, we present the answers to our holiday trivia questions. Enjoy!


muppet christmas carol

1. How many ghosts are there in A Christmas Carol?

Answer: Four.

2. Red and green are the two colors most associated with Christmas. Which are the two other colors, also named in a Burl Ives song, that are also extremely popular in this season?

Answer: Silver and gold.

3. In the UK, which Christmas food is it considered good luck to eat one of on each of the 12 days of Christmas?

Answer: Mince pies.

4. In the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” the Grinch is called all kinds of names, but one particular trio of insults, one right after the other, differs by only a single letter. What are those three words?

Answer: Stink, stank, stunk.

5. Which two of the reindeer are named after weather phenomenon?

Answer: Donner and Blitzen, which are “thunder” and “lightning” in German.

6. What year was Christmas declared a federal holiday in the United States?

Answer: 1870.

mlaw-121205

7. Which country has a tradition of a witch dropping gifts for children through the chimney at Christmas?

Answer: Italy.

8. Which was the last state in the United States to declare Christmas a legal holiday?

Answer: Oklahoma.

9. How many reindeer were in the story “Twas the Night Before Christmas?”

Answer: Eight.

10. The film Miracle on 34th Street depicted events at what famous department store?

Answer: Macy’s.

11. What dish was served by Mrs. Cratchit in A Christmas Carol? (Hint: it is also mentioned in the song “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”)

Answer: Figgy pudding

12. Which of Santa’s reindeer is named after another animal?

Answer: Vixen.

Christmas theme, sales, Happy  Santa Claus in a snowy forest, Santa on the background of a winter forest, Russian Santa Claus (Grandfather Frost), Santa Claus are near his reindeers in harness.

13. The red and white costume of Santa was allegedly first introduced by which beverage manufacturer?

Answer: Coca-Cola.

14. Which President, a famous conservationist, objected to a Christmas tree in the White House?

Answer: President Theodore Roosevelt. He felt it was wrong to cut down trees for decoration.

15. Which spirit is traditionally added to butter and served with Christmas pudding?

Answer: Brandy.

16. In Spain, it’s considered good luck to eat one of these foods for each chime of the clock for the new year. What food is it?

Answer: Grapes.

17. In the American version of The Office, salesman Dwight portrayed Belsnickel instead of Santa for one of the company’s holiday parties. Instead of naughty or nice, what two adjectives did Belsnickel choose between when gauging the behavior of everyone?

Answer: Impish or admirable.

18. Who was the first President to have a tree in the White House?

Answer: President Benjamin Harrison in 1889.

the grinch

19. True story. I had a dog named Chestnut who stared at the stereo speaker in confusion every time a certain holiday ditty played. What was its title?

Answer: The Christmas Song.

20. What is the most popular meal for Christmas in Japan?

Answer: KFC fried chicken.

21. The name of what Christmas song was originally called “Tinkle Bells” until the writer’s wife pointed out that tinkle also means pee?

Answer: Silver Bells.

22. In what Central American country might you find yourself kicking off the holiday season by burning the devil on December 7th while sweeping your house?

Answer: Guatemala.

23. Which ocean is Christmas Island located in?

Answer: Indian Ocean.

24. What is the name of the Grinch’s dog?

Answer: Max.


How did you do? And do you have any favorite tidbits of holiday trivia? Please let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.

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!

Counting Down the Hours With Some Holiday Trivia!

As you well know, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, normally we post a puzzle to celebrate a given holiday.

But we just did that for Thanksgiving.

So, instead, how about we switch things up a bit and offer you an advent calendar’s worth of holiday trivia to celebrate the festive season?

That’s right, twenty-four questions on holiday pop culture from around the world. How does that sound?

Feel free to cherry-pick from these questions for your own Yuletide trivia. We’ve tried to keep it relatively easy and accessible, though a few tougher historical questions might’ve snuck in alongside the song trivia, the reindeer trivia, and the food trivia.

Enjoy!


muppet christmas carol

1. How many ghosts are there in A Christmas Carol?

2. Red and green are the two colors most associated with Christmas. Which are the two other colors, also named in a Burl Ives song, that are also extremely popular in this season?

3. In the UK, which Christmas food is it considered good luck to eat one of on each of the 12 days of Christmas?

4. In the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” the Grinch is called all kinds of names, but one particular trio of insults, one right after the other, differs by only a single letter. What are those three words?

5. Which two of the reindeer are named after weather phenomenon?

6. What year was Christmas declared a federal holiday in the United States?

Christmas theme, sales, Happy  Santa Claus in a snowy forest, Santa on the background of a winter forest, Russian Santa Claus (Grandfather Frost), Santa Claus are near his reindeers in harness.

7. Which country has a tradition of a witch dropping gifts for children through the chimney at Christmas?

8. Which was the last state in the United States to declare Christmas a legal holiday?

9. How many reindeer were in the story “Twas the Night Before Christmas?”

10. The film Miracle on 34th Street depicted events at what famous department store?

11. What dish was served by Mrs. Cratchit in A Christmas Carol? (Hint: it is also mentioned in the song “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”)

12. Which of Santa’s reindeer is named after another animal?

mlaw-121205

13. The red and white costume of Santa was allegedly first introduced by which beverage manufacturer?

14. Which President, a famous conservationist, objected to a Christmas tree in the White House?

15. Which spirit is traditionally added to butter and served with Christmas pudding?

16. In Spain, it’s considered good luck to eat one of these foods for each chime of the clock for the new year. What food is it?

17. In the American version of The Office, salesman Dwight portrayed Belsnickel instead of Santa for one of the company’s holiday parties. Instead of naughty or nice, what two adjectives did Belsnickel choose between when gauging the behavior of everyone?

18. Who was the first President to have a tree in the White House?

the grinch

19. True story. I had a dog named Chestnut who stared at the stereo speaker in confusion every time a certain holiday ditty played. What was its title?

20. What is the most popular meal for Christmas in Japan?

21. The name of what Christmas song was originally called “Tinkle Bells” until the writer’s wife pointed out that tinkle also means pee?

22. In what Central American country might you find yourself kicking off the holiday season by burning the devil on December 7th while sweeping your house?

23. Which ocean is Christmas Island located in?

24. What is the name of the Grinch’s dog?


Do you have any favorite nuggets of holiday trivia? Please share it with us in the comment section below! We’d love to hear from you.

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

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Make the Season Bright (and Puzzly)!

Christmas is fast approaching, but there’s still time to put a nice puzzly spin on this festive holiday.

Naturally, we have a few ideas for how to do that without shelling out more of your hard-earned cash. (This is why you won’t see puzzle boxes or those marble-run boxes for gift cards here. This is all DIY!)

So let’s look at some puzzle-inspired ways to enhance your Yuletide endeavors!


[Image courtesy of Destination Imagination.]

Scavenger Hunt / Puzzle Hunt

Yes, this is always the first suggestion on our list because it’s a fun idea you can tailor to any age group. Whether they’re solving riddles, figuring out vague references to places in the house, or simply searching for gifts like Easter eggs, it can freshen up the Christmas morning experience to exercise their brains before they put their arms to work tearing open wrapping paper.

puzzlelove

Puzzles for Presents / Puzzle Password

I know a couple who absolutely love cryptic-style crossword clues, and on more than one occasion, before one gives the other a birthday or Christmas gift, they’ll have to solve a cryptic clue.

Often they’re about the couple themselves, or multiple clues will spell out a message. It’s a sweet little puzzly way to “earn” your gifts, if you’re into that sort of thing.

You can easily do this with kids by pretending the wrapped gifts are “locked” and they have to figure out a code or find a “key” to free the present. (Heck, some ribbons are so resilient that you really can lock up a present!)

daggertrap

Paper Locks

Similarly, you can create actual paper locks to be opened or employ the puzzly art of letterlocking to create a little mechanical puzzle to be unraveled before opening a gift.

There are some wonderful DIY tutorials and YouTube videos out there detailing how to create these whimsical little challenges, and it’s pretty impressive how much you can do with some paper, glue, and creativity.

[Image courtesy of Nadim’s Craft.]

Origami Puzzle Box

And speaking of all the things you can do with paper, it should come as no surprise that there are puzzle boxes out there that you can create with the Japanese paper-folding art of origami.

Some are simple, some are complex, and yes, none of these will stop a child determined to get to that gift, but these are wonderfully intricate and stylish ways to present someone you care about with a gift experience they’re remember.


Do you have any suggestions for making the holiday season puzzlier? Let us know in the comment section below! We’d love to hear from you.

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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!

The Internet Rallies Together to Solve a Fall Guys Jigsaw Puzzle!

[Image courtesy of Fabrik Brands.]

It’s always fun when companies use puzzles as part of their marketing campaign. We’ve seen it loads of times over the years with varying degrees of success.

On the plus side, there was the intriguing trailer hunt for the Cartoon Network show Infinity Train, and the excitement when Game of Thrones launched a viral challenge where folks hunted down copies of the Iron Throne around the world.

On the minus side, there was the Busch Beer Pop Up Schop promotion where days of little puzzles led to hundreds more attendees showing up to the event than expected, and many were turned away disappointed when the free beer and merch dried up quickly.

I think my favorite thing about all of these puzzly campaigns is how people from all over the Internet rally together to solve them. They share information, theories, speculation, and general enthusiasm, driving each other toward a solution.

We got to see another example of collective puzzle-solving on the internet recently for fans of Fall Guys.

[Image courtesy of Wired.]

Fall Guys, for the uninitiated, is a game where dozens of players can compete in silly obstacle courses, tag-style chase games, and other sporty competitions as these goofy little costumed toddling characters, the fall guys.

It’s great fun and rapidly became one of the go-to games for streamers on YouTube to share their successes, frustrations, and all the shenanigans involved in playing.

The team behind Fall Guys, Mediatonic, teased the third season of Fall Guys by launching Operation #JigSawus, wherein they sliced a promotional photo into three hundred pieces and distributed them to fans across a number of different Twitter and Instagram accounts and Discord servers.

Then, it was up to the fans. Would people put aside the competitiveness that made Fall Guys so fun in order to find out just what the jigsaw would reveal?

Of course they would. Puzzle people are good people.

[Image courtesy of Mediatonic.]

It took only a few hours for the entire image to be revealed: a promotional poster for the theme for Fall Guys Season 3, Winter Knockout.

Yes, most fans probably assumed that the third season, launching in wintertime, would have a winter theme, but hey, it’s a bit of fun, and another nice reminder of how people can come together to solve puzzles and support each other.

Puzzles really do make the world a better place.


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A Bit of Holiday Wordplay Around the Virtual Fireplace!

Long-time readers know that we often host in-house wordplay contests. Not only do we invite our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles to participate, but our fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers as well!

It’s the holiday season, so we embraced it with this month’s game! Yup, it’s a Penny Pressmas and a Jingle Dell Rock!

Essentially, we challenged our fellow puzzlers to unleash their punny creativity on all things holidays. They could mix and match puzzles with holiday songs, seasonal trappings, and more!

They could create their own puzzly holiday and tell us about the traditions and celebrations! Heck, they could make a puzzly holiday card, if they wished! Anything that struck their fancy, so long as it was puzzle-fueled and holiday flavored.

So, without further ado, let’s see what they came up with!


Some submissions stuck to our traditional holidays:

Here We Come A-Puzzling

Holi-Daisy

It’s the Most Wonderful Timed Framework of the Year

God Bless Us Every One and Only!

Blackout! Friday

The First and Last Noel

Merry Christmas to All Fours, and to All a Good Night!


Others suggested new puzzly holidays:

Saturnabout-nalia

Fest-and-Last-ivus

Boxes Day / Letterboxes Day

All Four Kwanzaa

Yule Know the Odds


“I tried to make a crossword without a certain letter in it… but I couldn’t manage it. Alas, my No-L puzzle will have to be submitted another holiday.” — a participant who wishes to remain anonymous.


One clever puzzler submitted this delightful visual mashup! Do you get it?

Screen Shot 2020-12-10 at 9.40.13 AM


And finally, your humble PN blogger couldn’t resist throwing in his own little bit of puzzly holiday fun for you…

He knows when you’re sleeping
And he knows when you’re awake
Plus he knows if you’ve been BAD or GOOD (based on which answer fits in the available grid squares)
Perhaps be good for goodness’ sake

You might not know his name
So let’s all take time to meet him now
Oh who could this figure be
Let’s all say his name aloud

Volumes of puzzles to deliver each year
In dozens of places, and even right here!
Now you know of the legend, you’ve read all the rhymes
Gotta ask Sylla Claustic to make it on time!


Do you have any punny puzzly holiday ideas? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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!