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Sunday Scribblings #113: The Latin Square Poem Puzzle: A Delightful Challenge

It is World Sudoku Day on the 9th of September; that led me to looking for other similar puzzles, and eventually to the amazingly cool and challenging, yet fun, the Latin square poem puzzle!

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Notepad and a pen over it with a cup of coffee next to it. words read Sunday Scribblings, and this is for Sunday Scribblings #113: The Latin Square Puzzle Poem: A Delightful Challenge

Poetic Sundays: Latin Square Poem Puzzle

Very simply put, a Latin square is an n × n table filled with n different symbols, each occurring exactly once in each row and exactly once in each column. So Sudoku by principle is a 9*9 Latin square with an additional restriction that each 3*3 sub-square contains the digits 1 – 9. The Latin square symbols can be numbers, letters, colors, or any other symbol of choice.

This week, I decided to feature the Latin square poem puzzle since, as I mentioned earlier, September 9th happens to be World Sudoku Day, and what better way to talk about poetry this week than to merge words and this puzzle together (sort of!)?

So What is the Latin Square Poem Puzzle?

This puzzle basically involves writing a poem first (or picking a poem of your choice, if you so wish), and creating a Latin square puzzle out of it for others to be able to read the poem in the end!

How to Make a Latin Square Poem Puzzle

Write an n*n poem if possible, or as close to it as you can. Or pick one of your choice. Ideally, pick a poem with as many words in each line as the number of lines so you have a proper n * n table to work with. If not, try to pick or write a shorter poem with lines of even length, where the number of words in the shortest line is equal to or close to the number of lines in the poem. Since, if really needed, you can place a couple of words in few of the squares. I have done so in my attempt today.

Step-by-step to Create it

Pick the poem

To show you an example, I am using part of the poem Hope by Emily Dickinson (read fully here)

HOPE is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

Decide the ‘n’ for your n*n table.

Now, since the number of lines here is 4, and lesser than the total number of words in any line (5 in the shortest lines), I am going to use a 4 * 4 table to make my puzzle.

Number the n * n table

Number the squares for the table by row and column such that each number (in this case, 1 through 4) appears only once in each row and each column.

2431
4123
1342
3214
Fill up the table with the words

Start by writing the first word(s) of each line in the first column, using the numbers to write the words of the line number. So for this one, the square numbered 1 in the third row will get filled with the first word(s) of the first line. In this case, I filled it with ‘hope is’. Continuing on, I filled column two’s square numbered ‘1’ with the second word(s) of line one – ‘the thing’. Do so with the rest of the words and the rest of the lines till all the squares are filled.

2
that
4
never
3
without
1
feathers
4
and
1
the thing
2
in the
3
the words
1
hope is
3
the tune
4
stops
2
soul
3
and sings
2
perches
1
with
4
at all

If 4 words in each line, then would be perfect. However, in this case, we have more than 4 so we are going to crowd a few squares with more than one word, like in the example above.

Make it a puzzle

Remove enough of the numbers so it remains solvable yet challenging

2
that

never
3
without

feathers

and
1
the thing

in the

the words

hope is

the tune

stops

soul
3
and sings

perches

with

at all

Your puzzle is ready!

How to Solve a Latin Square Poem Puzzle

The easiest way to spell it out for you is to ask you to read the creator of this puzzle, Lisa Lajeunesse’s poem here. Even so, let me attempt to paraphrase Lisa in the steps below:

  1. In the n*n puzzle (like below), ignore the words at first (completely).
  2. Start by attempting to fill in the numbers in the squares missing them. As you fill them in, ensure that each number appears only ONCE in each row and each column
  3. Once you have filled in all the numbers correctly (you will know), you can attempt to read the poem
  4. Read the poem from left to right as you normally would. All the words numbered 1 (one) will read out the first line of the poem. Similarly, words numbered 2, when read from the first column through the last column, will read out the second line, and so on till you have reached the last number.
  5. So in the ‘Hope’ poem puzzle I have used above to make the puzzle, below is how we solve it.

Step-by-step to Solve it

So here is the completed puzzle from earlier where we will attempt to fill in the numbers. Adding the first couple of obvious guesses in brackets below. Row one, column two cannot be ‘1’ since ‘1’ is directly below it in the next row. Since ‘2’ and ‘3’ are already filled in for the first row, it has to be ‘4’ making the last square in that row ‘1’.

2
that
(4)
never
3
without
(1)
feathers

and
1
the thing

in the

the words

hope is

the tune

stops

soul
3
and sings

perches

with

at all

Using similar logic, we will fill up the rest to get the initial table once again (with all the numbers, like in the previous section). Now, simply use step 4 as I mentioned in the ‘how to solve’, you will be able to read Emily Dickinson’s Hope (the first stanza).

My Attempt

Note: I used one of my previous poems, so in a way, that is a clue! I wrote the poem earlier this year. Have fun solving it and hope you enjoy the resulting poem. You can put your answers in the comments, and I will publish the comments after a couple of you have attempted at the least!

My Latin Square Poem Puzzle

Sources/References

Below links, written by the creator, Lisa Lajeunesse

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Poetic Sundays: Latin Square Poem Puzzle

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  • Literary birthdays this week include: Sam Hamill and Paul Fleischman on the 5th; Alice Sebold on 6th Sep; David Levithan on the 7th of Sept; Phyllis A. Whitney, Matt de la Peña, Kalki, Bharatendu Harishchandra, Sonia Sanchez, and Leo Tolstoy on the 9th; Mary Oliver on the 10th; D.H. Lawrence and O Henry on the 11th
  • Sept is also Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month
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  • National Read a Book Day is observed on the 6th of September. For me, it is everyday!
  • International Literacy Day and World Ampersand Day are observed on the 8th of September
  • The 9th of September celebrates a popular puzzle, for it is International Sudoku Day

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Wrapped Up: My Sunday Scribblings

So dear reader, you have reached the end of this Sunday Scribblings! As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments, and suggestions about this post. Will you be attempting to write the Latin square puzzle poem? And, of course, do let me know if you plan to celebrate any of these mentioned celebrations this coming week/month?

Linking this to the Sunday Post over at the Caffeinated Reviewer and the Sunday Salon

6 thoughts on “Sunday Scribblings #113: The Latin Square Poem Puzzle: A Delightful Challenge

  1. How fascinating! Never heard of this before and I definitely want to try it for myself. thanks, very educational. Snap, I sound spammy but I am excited to deepen my skills and to it myself.

  2. Ive never done this puzzle before but I would like to try. Happy to see posts on your blog like this and looking forward to more and upcoming posts.

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