Dropquote

Dropquotes, also called quotefalls, are a type of word puzzle that involves placing letters from letter banks in the right places in a grid to form a string of coherent text (often a famous quote).

Background[edit | edit source]

Dropquotes are a relatively recent invention, having debuted in a French puzzle book in 1975 titled "100 Jeux et Casse-tête", written by Pierre Berloquin (a notable French puzzle-writer and author of several cryptography manuals). However, beyond that there is not much recorded history for this puzzle type, at least not in in English-language resources.

In modern times, dropquotes aren't as common outside of two primary sources. The first being (as usual) puzzle hunts (and puzzle hunt-related media), wherein dropquotes are almost always presented with a twist or gimmicks. The second source is geocaches, which have been using various puzzle techniques since soon after their inception. However even then, dropquotes (like most other more puzzle-involved cache techniques) aren't nearly as common outside of hunts.

Puzzle Application[edit | edit source]

Traditional dropquotes have several key components that don't change very often. This is actually a boon to hunt writers, as the more rules there are for writing a "traditional" puzzle, the more ways there are to make it gimmicky.

Example Dropquote puzzle

A traditional dropquote contains a rectangular grid with black squares used as spaces, not unlike an acrostic. Rather than clues being answered to fill in the grid, the letters belonging in each of the columns of the grid are removed, alphabetized, and placed vertically above their respective columns. From there, solvers just "drop" letters down from the columns to form the missing text, one letter per cell. In most cases, the result is a quote (literary or otherwise), with some dropquotes requiring an "answer" consisting of the quote's source (book, author, or speaker).

This description can be broken down into four components, each of which being a possible point of change for a hunt puzzle author.

Grid Shape[edit | edit source]

Changing the shape of a dropquote grid does come with some major challenges. Anything other than square or rectangular cells can make the arrangement of the upper columns a bit more difficult. Hexagons are likely one of the only alternate shapes that would work well with this puzzle type, as they're able to tessellate and have been used in other, similar types of puzzles in the past.

Another way to adjust the grid itself is to change the orientation. This can create a cosmetic difference to the puzzle if the creator still wants it to be mostly a traditional dropquote, but it can also be used to create functional difference. By rotating a grid 90 degrees CCW, one can create a dropquote where the content is still read in reading order, but the rows are collected rather than the columns. Tilting the grid at an angle can create some very interesting physics-based variations, or a puzzle where strings of letters are oriented on both upper edges of the grid.

Letter Banks[edit | edit source]

By withholding the letter banks needed to solve the dropquote, authors can add an extra layer of puzzle to the solving process. Way to do this include combination with other establish puzzle types (acrostics work especially well), encrypting the text, and moving the banks away from the grid altogether, forcing solvers to assign them to the correct column.

As an author, one should be careful of obscuring their letter banks in a way that is otherwise undetectable, such as via cryptograms or Caesar shifting, without also signposting this change and/or providing a clear solve path in some way, as doing so can create a seemingly impossible puzzle.

Number of Letters[edit | edit source]

While changing the number of letters that go into a given cell in a dropquote is not as common of a gimmick, it has potential. Doubling up on letters or mixing and matching cell content from 0 to X letters-per-cell would certainly increase the difficulty of a given puzzle, but should be done with care. If it ties into a theme or a particular extraction, and the fill is otherwise not too tricky to figure out, these increases in difficulty are more reasonable to implement. Difficulty for difficulty's sake is less appreciated.

Grid Content[edit | edit source]

The most common change applied to dropquotes is to avoid quotes altogether. Unlike acrostics, which have potential for thematic content outside of the grid fill (particularly in their clues), dropquotes don't have very many other ways to present a novel extraction. By making the grid fill standalone words or phrases, one can essentially wrap up a dropquote with a metapuzzle for extraction. Ultimately anything can be used as grid fill, as long as a fun or novel extraction is used.

Strategy[edit | edit source]

Solution to the above example Dropquote puzzle

Dropquotes, as a relatively well-known puzzle type, are almost always easy to identify. While some variations with alternate grid shapes exist, the presence of letter banks next to a series of cells (or spaces for letter banks) is usually enough to identify them as dropquotes.

Solving[edit | edit source]

Solving dropquotes is a much more difficult affair. Ignoring gimmicks, grid size is the best indicator for how difficult a dropquote will be: the larger the puzzle (particularly how many rows it has), the harder the puzzle will be to solve. However, regardless of the size, there are some strategies that should help alleviate the difficulty of most dropquotes.

When looking at columns to work on, the easiest ones to start with are those that have the fewest letters (such as the OT column in our example puzzle), and those that have multiple of the same letters (such as the ISTT column in our example puzzle). These limit the locations of their contents the most, particularly in cases where a column has all but one letter as the same; in these cases, one can sometimes examine where the cells in that column are within each of their words. In some cases, letters will be less likely to appear in a certain letter position (Xs rarely appear at beginnings, and As rarely appear at ends).

When looking at solving full words, shorter words (2 or 3 letters) can often be filled out from the very beginning. In our example, the first 2-letter word is most likely "IT" or "IS", while the second almost certainly must be "TO" (while HI, HO, and OP are technically possible, they're much less likely to occur at all). Similarly, the three-letter word either has to be "THE" or "ONE". Either way, the last letter is E, and can be used to help place the other letters from that column.

As one solves bits and pieces of a dropquote, the text should start to become clearer. At a certain point, one may even be able to recognize a quote (if it is one) or particular full sentences. The more that is filled out, the easier the rest of the puzzle gets; letters within each column begin to whittle down, and sentence fragments can be used to logically piece together the rest (assuming that sentences are being used).

Lastly, if a dropquote is proving to be particularly difficult, a shortcut can be taken using regex word finder, such as QAT. By placing the contents of each letter bank contributing to a word into something like this, finding possible words (particularly longer ones) can greatly speed up the process. For example, finding one of the longest words using QAT would require the following input:

[iops][oqs][ltu][hiou][istt][eis][ot][dhn]

This string, when inputted in QAT, results in exactly one word: SOLUTION. This can be repeated for other words, but the more letters that are present in the banks and/or the shorter the words, the more options that will be available to choose from.

Notable Examples[edit | edit source]

  • Drop Everything (MITMH 2006) (web) - A much more difficult variation on a dropquote using a hexagonal grid and without spaces being marked. To compensate for the extra difficulty, it also had letter being dropped in from three separate angles that end up cross-checking each other.
  • Stick the Landing (MITMH 2017) (web) - Plays with the method of providing the letters that go into each column, by having solvers complete Tortured Clues puzzles that result in otherwise nonsensical strings, but fit uniquely into partially-filled columns of the dropquote.
  • Drop and Give Me Ten (MITMH 2019) (web) - A rare dropquote using something other than text. Click to revealInstead, it used music tracks, via mashups made using the Dropmix card game.

See Also[edit | edit source]