Playing Games with Names

Word games can be a great way to take a short break from the daily grind but still keep your mind active. They also provide a diversion that doesn't require a lot of supplies. Here are three games that require only a pencil, a piece of paper, and your name (or someone else's.)

Word search

Probably the simplest word game can be done without a pencil and paper: Simply see how many other words you can spell using the letters in your name. If your name is long or contains a lot of the most common letters, this can get pretty tedious. Try for something more specific: Find the longest single word that you can form from those letters.

Kudos if you can get all the letters in your name to create a single word. If you've managed that, you have a head start on the next word game.


Anagrams are just words that use all of the same letters, only in a different order, like saintsatin, and stain. Try rearranging the letters in your name to create a sentence, phrase, or description. The best (and eeriest) anagrams actually say something about the person whose name is anagrammed (or at least they seem to).

Wordsmiths have been anagramming the names of the rich and famous for years with various success. Some of the more notable results:

  • Alec Guinness = Genuine Class
  • Clint Eastwood = Old West Action
  • George Bush = He bugs Gore
  • Bonus anagram: CliffsNotes = Stiff Clones


An acrostic is a poem in which the first letter of each line spells out a word, phrase, or name — usually the subject of the poem. This type of wordplay is more complex than the previous ones, but it's more fun, too.

Acrostics were once popular among serious poets, but today they are more often written for children or as Valentine's Day gifts. Among the well-known poets who have written acrostic poems, you'll find Geoffrey Chaucer, Sir John Davies, William Blake, Lewis Carroll, and Edgar Allan Poe, who penned the following poem:

 Elizabeth it is in vain you say
"Love not" — thou sayest it in so sweet a way:
 In vain those words from thee or L. E. L.
 Zantippe's talents had enforced so well:
 Ah! if that language from thy heart arise,
 Breathe it less gently forth — and veil thine eyes.
 Endymion, recollect, when Luna tried
 To cure his love — was cured of all beside —
 His folly — pride — and passion — for he died.

For a real challenge, create an acrostic Shakespearean sonnet based on the 14 letters in the name BILL SHAKESPEARE.