If you like a good game of hangman, enjoy a tough crossword and really love the game show staple Wheel of Fortune, acrostic puzzles will provide you with the kind of endless entertainment that maybe not even Pat Sajak can match. Like all puzzles, acrostics can be easy or devilishly challenging. A broad educational background, good memory, and logical thinking skills all will serve you well in your acrostics battles.
No matter how hard or easy they might be, there are strategies you can deploy to maximize your success rate and reveal your ultimate prize – the mysterious quote.
For starters, understand that one word often spans two lines of the gridded diagram. Line breaks don't signal the end of word; only black squares do. Misunderstand this aspect of the puzzle and you'll likely wind up in tears before solving your first challenge. Also understand that the final quote is read horizontally, and that you never read the squares in a diagram vertically; if you do, you'll see just gibberish. You should also know that you won't see punctuation, such as hyphens or apostrophes, in these puzzles.
It's generally best to skim through the clues first and fill in the answers that you're certain are correct. If you're completing the puzzle online or in a computer program, the application usually automatically transfers each letter of your answer to the diagram, which eventually will spell out the entire quote.
If you're doing this puzzle on paper, you'll have to fill in the diagram manually. Unless you're quite fond of maximum frustration, use a pencil with an eraser.
After you figure out answer to a few clues, you'll see that the diagram is partially complete. Often, you'll see fragments of words that you can guess. If you're confident about a word, you can complete it in the diagram and then transfer the letters back to the blank clue area, which it turn may help spark an answer to the clue.
In this manner, completing an acrostic puzzle is something like starting a fire with damp wood. It takes a while to get things going, but it picks up momentum and takes off in a hurry.
Once in a while, though, you'll see that the diagram is filling with a series of letters that can't possibly be a word. That's when it's time to review any dubious answers you provided to a clue. Just remember that sometimes words with the same meaning (synonyms) also have the same number of letters, a fact that has added to the misery of ardent crossworders for generations. With online acrostic puzzles, in particular, you may also consider another possibility – that the puzzle itself contains mistakes.
Just like crossword puzzles, the clues can range from exceedingly easy to almost unbelievably hard. If you don't mind cheating, however, Google (or another Internet search engine) can be your best friend when clues prove insurmountable.
So as you take on your first round of acrostic puzzles, embrace the challenges and rejoice in your successes. And when the going gets too tough and you can't find an answer, you can take solace in this bit of truth -- a lot of other people are cheating with Google, too.