AcrosticsThe acrostic is an early form of word puzzle or game with connections to the word square and the modern crossword. It was not a puzzle in the sense of something to be "solved" - the "solution" is obvious. The skill lies in creating the acrostic. Very often this is combined with poetry.
What Is An Acrostic?An acrostic is a series of lines of text where corresponding letters in each line can be read in sequence to form a word, phrase or significant sequence. The most acclaimed acrostics are those where the "hidden" message is connected with the content of the poem.
The name comes from the Greek words akron (end) and stikhos (line of verse). As the name implies, acrostics are most often pieces of verse where the "hidden" message is formed by either the first or last letter of each line. Sometimes both ends of the line contain a message - this is known as a double acrostic.
One famous if simple acrostic is that the first letters of the Greek words for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour" spell out the Greek word for "fish", the symbol of Christ. Since there is only one word in each line this would today usually be called an acronym rather than a true acrostic.
Rather lesser known is that Psalm 119 is a form of acrostic in the original Hebrew. There are 22 stanzas in the Psalm, each of eight lines. All eight lines of the first stanza begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, aleph. All eight lines of the second stanza begin with bet, etc.
Lewis Carroll was a great fan of word games including acrostics and wrote a number which incorporated the names of friends. Through The Looking Glass ends with a poem which begins:
A boat, beneath a sunny sky
The first letters of the full poem spell out "Alice Pleasance Liddell", the name of the real life girl thought to have inspired Alice.
A more "puzzling" form of acrostic was popular in Victorian times. Here a poem or series of clues led to a set of answers that in turn formed an acrostic.
Although acrostics today have largely been overshadowed by crosswords, in puzzle form they remain popular and many publications still print them. You can also buy software to assist in creating your own acrostic poems.