Solving the doubles

U 15.1630-1: Free medical and legal advice, solution of doubles and other problems. All cordially invited.

Bloom the advertiser makes a number of cordial offers during one of his hallucinations in the Circe episode. It’s not unusual to find the Dublin papers of the time advertising free medical and legal advice, but the ‘solution of doubles’ has proved a bit harder to untangle.

The answer lies in the puzzle pages of the popular newspapers and journals. The ‘double acrostic’ became popular in the third quarter of the nineteenth century, and puzzle pages soon added them to their arsenal of posers. The Irish Times, for example, was offering regular ‘double acrostics’ from at least 1876. We know of the interest Joyce’s father took in puzzles from the tales of his attempts to win a ‘crisp £5 note’ by completing the picture puzzle in the remarkably popular Answers magazine.

Sharp-witted members of the public would, from time to time, offer the answers to current puzzles to potential purchasers through the small-ads sections of the newspapers. Here is one example from 1897 from the Freeman’s Journal (15 October):

'Picture Puzzles'; 'Weekly Telegraph', 'Tit-Bits', and 'Answers', solutions complete, 4d each and stamped envelope; gave 45 correct out of 46 'Answers' last competition. Address Mack, 17 Old Camden street.

So what was a ‘double acrostic’? An acrostic consisted of a series of clues, and the first letter of each answer in turn spelt out a word – the answer to the acrostic.

A double acrostic consisted of a similar set of clues (at first typically in verse), and the first and last letters of each answer in turn spelt out two words – the answer to the double acrostic.

This is the double acrostic puzzle published by the Weekly Irish Times on 11 June 1904 (p. 17), and running over Bloomsday. The ‘Foundation Words’ hint at the final answer to the double acrostic, and the ‘Cross Lights’ are the individual clues:

Foundation Words.

You must look for a two to my one.

Find that and your trouble is done.

Cross Lights.

1. I entered an ancient hall –

The first hung round the wall.

2. Its note delights when summer's here –

The grandest season of the year.

3. Now, to the noisy feasting hark!

There's many a jest and many a lark.

4. A metal in this place you see.

5. The beginning the fifth will surely be.

6. Here is a month – not May or June –

A Hebrew one: you'll find it soon.

7. For seven an intricate state of affairs.

8. A Highland soldier at you stares.

The answer was published in the Weekly Irish Times of 2 July 1904. It was not one of their most creative answers, being ‘acrostic solution’ itself, built up in the following way:

A rra S

C ucko O

R eve L

O rmol U

S tar T

T isr I

I mrbogli O

C atera N

Confirmation that ‘doubles’ was used for ‘double acrostics’ comes from this puzzle, the last of the ‘Dublin Acrostics’ published in the Irish Monthly at Christmas 1900 (vol. 28, December, p. 704). The first of four verses (and eight couplets of clues) runs:

This is the last of all my doubles,

And when 'tis ended, I vow and swear

I'll blow no more of these colored bubbles

That float a moment to melt in air.

They're death and ruin to all my reading,

The charms of prose and the heights of song.

As I count on my fingers the words succeeding

To try if the letters go right or wrong.

This time the answer is worthy of the puzzle. The editor of the Monthly was particularly pleased with clues 4 and 6 (‘Vanquished by the fatal wood, Open-mouthed and mute he stood!’ and ‘Pity us, unhappy twain Called so often to explain’). The full answer reveals:

P arsni P

I se R

L ass O

G a G

R ove R


M es S

S upplie S

John Simpson

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