In this post I introduced the idea of the Transgressive Anagram. That is the idea of using an anagram as a way to "peek" a mentally selected word, and then transgressing out of the anagram into something a little more interesting than guessing letters.
I have a couple more thoughts on this and why you might want to use this technique in your anagram work.
The first thing to understand is that, traditionally, anagrams have been optimized for hits. As Atlas Brookings writes in his book on the subject, "It is important to recognize that you want to play the numbers to ensure that you get hits more often than misses."
So if, for instance, you wanted to do a progressive anagram of the Cafe staff (because your audience has been clamoring for it), you might guess an E first, because that will get you a "hit" for 20 of the 27 staff members.
But with transgressive anagrams we are optimizing for speed, not hits. So we don't choose the most popular letters, we choose the letters that split the possibilities in half (or as close to it as possible). This allows us to narrow down to the word as quickly as possible. So in our Cafe anagram we would guess a T first because that splits the staff up 14 and 13.
What are the repercussions of choosing speed over hits?
Well, I'll describe a real-world example. In Atlas Brookings' book, The Prodigal, he gives a progressive anagram for hand-animated Disney movies. There are about 35 of them. On average it takes him seven letter guesses to figure out the movie. Sometimes it take as many as ten guesses to get to the movie, but he never gets more than three "wrong" guesses.
I've created a transgressive anagram for essentially the same group of movies and it's always just five guesses. So the plus side is that it's usually quicker. But on the negative side, it can be 5 straight NOs.
So it's really a matter of style and what your routine is. If your routine is, "I can read your mind and I will prove it by naming the letters you're thinking of," then you're going to want to choose a traditional progressive anagram because that will minimize the "misses."
But there is some new thinking in progressive anagrams where there aren't really misses. I'm speaking here of Matt Mello's ideas in his ebook P.A.T.H.S. And with those ideas I think you'd want the shortest version of the letter guess procedure
There are also routines that would benefit from you being able to say, "I'm going to take five guesses and then commit myself." Which you can do with a transgressive anagram, but not with a standard progressive anagram, because it may range from 2-10 guesses (or more).
With a 5-guess transgressive anagram, you can have 32 potential choices. Since each guess narrows the field by half, after your first guess you have 16, then 8, then 4, 2, and 1.
Here is how I would handle transgressing (or not) from the anagram depending on how those five guesses went. Let's assume I was using my Disney anagram.
If I got all 5 wrong: "Holy crap... I really thought I was getting better at this. Thanks for helping me out, but it's not working. Let's try something different. Can you maybe picture a scene or two from the movie?" Then I'd go on to describe the scene. Or, since there is only one 5 NO outcome. That could be predicted in an envelope just off to the side. A folded sheet of paper that says, "I predict I will get all 5 letters wrong" [Open up the paper] "Because you will think of Pinocchio."
If I got 4 wrong and 1 right: "I told you I was psychic! With just a handful of question I psychically figured out there was a G in your movies title!" [I put the emphasis on how little I know. Not mentioning the fact that I also know 4 letters that aren't in the title.] "Let's try something that might actually work. Can you picture it visually? That should be easier for me."
Four wrong and one right is one of my favorite outcomes as you seem to have gained so little information from the procedure.
If I got 3 wrong and 2 right, or 2 wrong and 3 right: "Ehh...I'm not really feeling this. It's feeling like guessing. Let's try something different. Is there a song you would associate with this movie?"
You could, of course, continue to guess letters if you like, since you now know the word. But I generally prefer to move on to something not related to letters or even the words itself.
If I got 4 right and 1 wrong, or all 5 right: I would finish naming off the letters, or at least most of them and then name the movie.
The JAMM #4 will feature a couple TA and PA ideas, including
1. Wanda Disney, my Disney movie transgressive anagram. Atlas' idea to create a Disney anagram is a good one. People from 15-100 have no problem coming up with a classic Disney movie. I worked a long time on this. Writing progressive anagrams is hard enough as it is. To create a complete, perfect 5-guess transgressive anagram for 32 movies is even harder ("perfect" in the sense that it's the most amount of possibilities you can have with five guesses). And to do so in a way that anticipates and avoids potential problems is harder still. What do I mean by that? Well I wanted to avoid situations like this whenever possible, "Wait, you said it didn't have an H in it, but it's THe Aristocats. You forgot the H in The." I created the anagram so the guesses avoid any easily overlooked letters. And so that the guesses don't ever lead to an obvious answer. "You're thinking of a Disney movie with a D M and B in it?" At this point the whole audience knows it's Dumbo, but you need to keep guessing just on the off chance it's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The anagram I wrote avoids those situations as well.
2. There will be a Silent Anagram (as described in the JAMM #2) that deals with another pop-culture category.
3. I have a variation on one of Matt Mello's ideas that I'm really happy with. It's similar to his ideas in PATHS in that it removes the concept of "misses" from the letter guessing procedure. But here it's done in a slightly more dynamic and visually interesting way.
Ok, I shouldn't tease you. Here's your full transgressive anagram for the Cafe staff. Memorize and be the envy of your magic club. You start by guessing "T." If you get a yes, you always go to the adjoining green box to the right. If you get a no, you go to the adjoining red box to the right.
Make sure to ask someone to think of a random Cafe staff member. If you ask them to think of their favorite, they'll have an aneurysm as they think, "How will I ever narrow this down to just one?"