Dragons in Reflection

by Norman T. Thornton
February 26, 2008

presented by PoeticWrites.org


Dragons in Reflection is a new kind of crossword puzzle embedded in and intermingled with visual poetry. Ergo, it is interactive visual poetry --- not simply information transmission, instead reader /writer interdependent. Neither the game maker nor the player determines the outcome. They both contribute. Moreover, all players contribute. As language, in being a game, Positivism aspects are present yet the human interactivity lends Humanism possibilities.


This style of visual poetic write (Dragons in Reflections) as a game made its world debut introduced by this author at Busboys and Poets in Shirlington VA on Monday, February 25th, 2008. A 3D version of the table model is available on line.


The  red dot  serves as a placeholder for any number of letters. One of the letters of the placeholder is the  cross-letter  , indicated in the picture by the question mark backwards. The   cross-letter   is a single letter that can fit to make {"A"..."W"} a word and {"T"..."H"} a word. For example:

However, "aglow" spelled backwards is "wolga", not a word so no points for the backwards spelling. The word "tough" spelled backwards is "hguot", not a word so no points for that backward spelling. If the forward reading of the letters spell a word, 50 points are awarded. If the backward reading of the letters spell a word, 50 points are awarded. Each letter you supply is worth 1 point. For breaking ties, extra points are considered. For example, any   cross-letter   that is a vowel is worth 5 extra points as a vowel whereas a consonant is not worth any extra point as a consonant.  When the inner words (in this case "aglow" and "tough") compliment or augment the theme of the outer words (in this case, "we do", "for love", "we feel", "for life"), additional points can be awarded --- subjectively as a last resort. Note that the center letters "A", "H", "W", "T" spells "WHAT" and is referred to as the question ring --- since other letters can be used to re-factor (make new versions of) the game. The inner words, outer words and question ring make the entire theme. Use your words to augment or compliment the theme. For fun, read the theme in various ways to form interpretations. For ex: Aglow, what for love, we do, we feel --- for life. You can post your interpretations in the PoeticWrites Poetry Wiki inside the Dragons in Reflections topic at www.PoeticWrites.og.


If the {"A"..."W"} word can be read backwards and forwards ("A"⇔"W"), you get more points (bi-directional points = 50). The same is true for the {"T"..."H"} word.

For each letter of the word, you get 1 point. If the word is not legal [that is, is not within the scope of the language(s) played], you do not receive any point for the word.

If the  cross-letter   is a vowel you receive 5 extra points.

For reach direction the word can be read (left to right or right to left), it receives 1 unidirectional point.

So, let us say only one letter replaced the  red dot  . And, the {"A"..."W"} word and the {"T"..."H"} word were both words that could legitimately be read backwards and forwards. Then, the bidirectional score = 50 + 50, the unidirectional score = 4, the letter score = 1 for the {"A"..."W"} word, the letter point = 1 for the {"T"..."H"} word. That makes a total score of 106 points = 50+50+4+1+1. If the{"A"..."W"} word were comprised of 10 letters (not including the supplied {"A"..."W"} ) then the total would be 115 = 50+50+ 4 + 1+10.

Thus far, only quantitative points have been considered. Tie breaking might consider a qualitative measure: How well do the {"A"..."W"} and {"T"..."H"} words fit the overall theme of the Dragon's in Reflection? The better the fit, the more points awarded. The theme is set by the words that surround the Dragons in Reflection image.


For variety, the "W H A T" surround (letters that encircle the red dot) can be substituted for another surround, for example "W H E R E". This surround is referred to as the question ring although it need not be a question. In that case, refer to it as the center ring.

An image other than the official"Dragon's in Reflection" could be used, however, the genre is the same. That is, it is still a "Dragons in Reflection" game.

It is common for the theme (word surround the image) to change even if the image remains the same.


Yeah, thinking.  Note that the re-configured text breaks one's reading habits, prods one to reconsider one's perspective (positions!).  Humans are natural pattern seekers.  I could have just said: 
        What We Do For Love     We Feel For Life
Yet, this blunt however surprising assertion is fervent with potential questions and re-arrangements of one's relations to one's beliefs --- teasing what makes sense or could make sense or is senseless or reaches beyond sense to another experience --- beyond what is thinking to what is knowing or feeling.
Note that these are not Western cultural dragons.  They are Chinese!  Thus, they iconically imbued as powers.   Should power not be in reflection?  Do we not re-position or on occasion bend over backwards for/with/by/to (chose your preposition) concerning love?

For fun, adventure, mutual inspiration and enlightenment, I host poetry readings at Busboys and Poets (bookstore and restaurant in Shirlington, VA). To make the evening engaging, garner repeated visits and raise awareness that poetry is not just soliloquy in solitude or vocal virtuosity, I decided to challenged the audience with "Dragons in Reflection". The red dot represents any string of alphabetic characters. One character of the string serves as the nexus between {"A"..."W"} and "T"-"H", that is, the cross pattern imitates a "crossword". However, unlike ordinary crosswords, points are awarded for the bi-directional nature of the chosen words. That is, 2 points are award if the word can be read "A"⇒ "W" and "W" ⇒ "A" and 50 points since the word can be read in both directions --- for a total of 52 points. However, only 1 point is awarded if the word could only be read "A" ⇒ "W" but not also "W" ⇒ "A". Consider this minimum solution where the placeholder is replaced by a single letter (O) that also serves as the cross-letter:


example 1

Thus, "HOT" counts as 1 point,  "WOA" counts as 1 point.  However, "TOH" is not a standard word nor is "AOW", so no points are awarded for non-standard words.  [Generally, use cross-word dictionaries as the standard.  Use whatever version suits the language(s) that the game is played.]
So, one might start by defining these terms:
  1. Okay, I am looking for word x and word y that share one letter, the cross-letter.
  2. The letters at the vertical poles (letters "A" and "B") are not modifiable. 
  3. The same is true for letters at the horizontal poles (letters "T" and "H"). 
  4. Letters I place between the poles are considered variable since they can be whatever I want.  The red dot represents the variable letters.
And, then one might procedurally ponder, 
  1. What words x begin with "A" and end with "W" .  I make a list, the x words list.
  2. From all of those x words, I need word x'  (that is, x prime) that can be read backwards ----  a word that begins  with "W" and ends with "A".
  3. Okay, I've found  x' !!!
  4. Now, I need my y  word.
  5. For my y  word, I chose a letter q  (theta) as the cross-letter between word x ' and word y .
  6. Okay, now to complete my y  word, what words begins with "T", ends with "H"?
  7. Hmm, from my y  words list, what word y'  read can be read backwards?
  8. Aha!  I've found one.  So, now x '  and y'  can each be read backward and forward and x'  and y' share the cross-letter q .
  9. Hmmm, I wonder if I can get some extra points for x'  and y'  fitting the spirit of the rest of the poetic write?! Let me review my x   and y  word lists  to see if there is a better combination to make x ' and y' .
  10. Hmm, I wonder if I can get some extra points for having long x' and y'  words?
One point is award for each letter of a variable word.  So, let us assess example 1:


example 2


Quick Score Table
readable left-right
a point each variable letter
not readable right-left
not readable top-down
readable bottom-up
a point for each variable letter
no big points since no bi-directional or long words



Now, are you up to the challenge? No fair using a computer! Yet, then again, how would I know. I wouldn't, yet you would lose --- the benefits or the mental exercise, exploring new ways of looking at language and ideas. Additionally, any automation would do well to also consider the surrounding text and not just the placeholder. At B&P, the prize is a dinner graciously provide by B&P. You can make your results known in the PoeticWrites Poetry Wiki in the topic Dragons in Reflection. If the topic doesn't exist, create it! If you are in northern Virginia on the 4th Monday of the month, stop by Busboys and Poets 8-10 pm.