One of the oldest puzzle genres of history is what we now call the word square or acrostic, a square grid of seemingly random letters which, however, actually conceals words or messages. One of the earliest examples, dating from the second or third century, is a 39 X 39 square array of Greek letters, carved in alabaster, attributed to an Egyptian sculptor known as Moschion. To read the square one must start at the center and read right or left, up or down, turning at right angles along the way. The square contains the phrase "Moschion to Osiris, for the treatment which cured his foot," which is repeated over and over, in everlasting tribute to the healing god. Another famous word square is the so-called Sator Acrostic, found both on the site of the Roman city of Cirencester in England and on a column in the ancient city of Pompeii. A generally accepted interpretation of the words used in this 5  5 word square is: "Arepo, the sower, carefully guides the wheels," which is believed by some scholars to be a metaphor for "God controls the universe." Throughout the medieval period, the acrostic was commonly carved into amulets and worn to ward off disease and ill fortune.

Word squares are grids of letters that cross horizontally and vertically. In the puzzle below, the word trap is located in the top row and left-most column; Rome can be seen in the second row from the top and the second column from the left; amen is found in the third row from the top and the third column from the left; and pent occurs in the bottom row and in the right-most column. All the words cross each other in a perfect square arrangement.

                                                  T  R  A  P

                                                  R  O M  E

                                                  A  M  E  N

                                                  P  E  N  T

In the present version of the word square puzzle you are given clues that correspond to the rows and columns. Three clues means that there are three rows and columns and that the answers are three-letter words; four clues indicates that there are four rows and columns and that the answers are four-letter words. All you have to do is insert the letters of the answers accordingly to complete the square. On a philosophical note, it seems that from the beginning of time we have felt a penchant for placing symbols in some logical arrangement, as if, in so doing, we are implicitly imposing an existential order onto the chaos that seems to characterize life. Somehow, a completed word square bespeaks of stability and even perfection, in its own miniscule way. I have always claimed that this is the hidden subtext behind all puzzles-they seem to impart a sense of symmetry or harmony to life, once they are solved, of course.

Below you will find three 3 X 3 word squares, three 4 X 4 and a challenging 5 X 5 one.

1. (3 X 3)

Clues

1. young male
2. a natural mineral
3. an affirmative answer

2. (3 X 3)

Clues

1. to allow
2. a time period
3. a key on a computer

3. (3 X 3)

Clues

1. a cereal grass
2. a unit of currency
3. what everything comes to

4. (4 X 4)

Clues

1. place to sit
2. repetition of sound
3. greeting used by sailors
4. playthings

5. (4 X 4)

Clues

1. something that we want to achieve
2. an evil giant
3. region
4. to show the way

6. (4 X 4)
Clues

1. story
2. to assert something as a fact
3. intense feeling of affection
4. large jug with a wide spout

7. (5 X 5)
Clues

1. competitive pastime
2. material on which we write
3. the art of Giuseppe Verdi
4. repeat of a TV show or series
5. prefix meaning across or beyond

Answers

1.

B O Y

O R E

Y E S

2.

L E T

E R A

R A B

3.

R Y E

Y E N

E N D

4.

S E A T

E C H O

A H O Y

T O Y S

5.

G O A  L

O G R E

L E A D

6.

T A L E

A V O W

L O V E

E W E R

7.

S P O R T

P A P E R

O P E R A

R E R U N 

T R A N S

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