A Puzzle From 1944

May 13, 1944, Double Crostic

As part of my sabbatical from the blog (yes, this is a working sabbatical) I have been immersing myself in the 1940s and that includes the neglected job of tackling the random assortment of papers on my desk.

Several years ago, I printed out this Double-Crostic from the May 13, 1944, issue of Saturday Review on Unz.org and this morning I finally had a chance to take it on.

I like Double-Crostics (the New York Times publishes them in the Sunday magazine as Acrostics) and I consider myself a moderately good puzzler, but I quickly discovered this one was extremely difficult.

In case you don’t know, the Double-Crostic consists of two parts. The solution is a brief quote, usually from a book. The solver is given a list of clues, answers them (ideally) and then writes the letters from the answers into the puzzle grid.

Spoilers ahoy!

The clues look like this:


As I said, I consider myself a moderately skilled puzzler and I have been doing the New York Times’ Acrostics for years. But look at the difficulty of these questions!

Consider question X: “ ‘Qualis artifex pereo’ were his dying words.” (Nero) Or question C: “One of two founders of the Edinburg Review.” (Jeffrey) Or G: “The fair-ankled daughter of Evenus.” (Marpessa).

Keep in mind that solvers of 1944 did not have Google and might have had nothing more at their disposal than their own knowledge, an encyclopedia, unabridged dictionary and random reference works.  All in all, this puzzle is quite impressive.

The solution is here.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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3 Responses to A Puzzle From 1944

  1. Earl Boebert says:

    Well, it was semi-cheating because it is a 1981 book, but the Master Crossword Dictionary by Herbert M. Baus made fairly quick work of the puzzle, getting eight words off the bat and four more after those were posted. That dictionary was culled from sources that would likely be in the library of any semi-serious puzzler.

    The puzzle was typical of its time in using obscure words, and was interesting in that it didn’t follow the later convention of having the first letters of the clue words spell the author and title of the quoted work. This makes the modern ones much more of a challenge to devise than an ordinary crossword.

    Baus was a Los Angeles PR man, and put a ton of work into his dictionary. Possibly a Mary Mallory story there — after all, a guy who wrote a book entitled “How to Wine Your Way to Good Health” has to have *some* interesting characteristics.


    • lmharnisch says:

      Actually, the first letters spelled out the author’s name and book title: “LT JOHN MASON BROWN TO ALL HANDS.” I can usually do the New York Times’ Sunday Acrostics without looking up anything, but I only got a few words in this puzzle.

      Baus sounds like an interesting character! Thanks for sharing.


  2. Earl Boebert says:

    You’re right, I stopped at “LTJ.” Oh, well.


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