While Oedipus Rex may not be the first person to stumble upon a dastardly riddle (the Sumerians were probably first), he is certainly one of the most famous. In the play by the Greek playwright Sophocles, the main character answers the sphinx’ question:
What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?
Can you n a m the answer?
As in the case of every good riddle, the question is intentionally, if not also artistically, veiled. Escape Mail co-founder Eric is an author of a book of riddles called Ratsel: Original Riddles. Eric’s eyes were opened to the potential of the entire world as a puzzle, filled with delight and wonder, as he wrote this book. One of the difficulties with riddles, however, is that there can often be multiple valid answers, which isn’t ideal for escape room design. Nevertheless, riddles remain near and dear to our hearts here at Escape Mail.
Around this same time as the riddle, the anagram was likely developed by a Greek poet Lycophron who apparently used them to flatter the rich and mighty. An anagram is a word or phrase that can be rearranged to reveal a new word or phrase. The original phrase can be unintelligible, but it is far more intriguing (and ingenious) when the word/phrase is intelligible both before and after the rearrangement. There’s an opportunity for sublime double-layered meaning here which we find really rich. We use lots of anagrams in Escape Mail, but we try to change up how we deliver them to you so that you keep getting incredible variety in every episode. We like the function of an anagram because it can be simple (attainable all on its own) or complex (requiring a key or instruction for you - the player - to know how to decode/unscramble).
BONUS: One anagram that you do not NEED to solve - but has been placed there for you as an easter egg - is found in Episode 6 Quiet as the Grave. Hint: the author’s first and last name anagrams into one word: a clue as to where the information in the article belongs!