Saturday, March 15, 2008

How to solve a Word Ladder

In a word ladder, a start and an end word are provided, and the solution consists of the steps or rungs between the words. Each step is itself a common, non-capitalized word, formed by changing the previous word according to a set of rules. Plurals and other forms of words are acceptable. There are several possible rule sets for changing words.

A Lewis Carroll word ladder is named for its inventor. To change each rung of the ladder, one can add a letter, remove a letter, change a letter, or anagram the word.

Example: From GO to STOP (3 rungs)
1. GOT (added a letter)
2. POT (changed a letter)
3. POTS (added a letter)
STOP (anagrammed)

In a constricted word ladder, the only legal change is to change a letter of the word.

Example: From EASY to HARD (4 rungs)
Example taken from Wikipedia

Although technically these are open solution puzzles, since there may be more than one series of rungs, ordinarily there is a single solution. If you find a solution with fewer rungs than specified, you will get an additional win point for beating the puzzle-maker.

How to solve a rebus puzzle

In a rebus puzzle, the words and their arrangement, described literally, stand for a common word or phrase. Rebus puzzles are single solution puzzles, so to help you find the correct answer, the number of words and letters in each word will be indicated on the line under the puzzle. For example, the solution to the following rebus is "mind over matter":

4, 4, 6

How to solve a Double Meaning

A Double Meaning is a single solution crossword variant. Each word entered into the diagram has two meanings (which may or may not be pronounced the same) with a clue for each meaning. Thus there are twice as many clues as entries into the diagram, and each clue has the same one-word answer as another clue. Clues are divided into across and down, but it is otherwise up to you to decide where each word belongs. Some words may fit into more than one part of the grid, but there is only one solution that places all the words into the grid.

Solving Strategies

First, go through the list of across clues and try to answer each one, writing the answer beside the clue. Look for the duplicates. Do the same with the down clues. Cross off each clue you have answered.

Next, try fit your across and down entries into the grid. Use the number of letters in each word and shared letters between across and down entries. Some entries may have only one possible place because there is no other entry with the same number of letters.

If you haven't filled in every entry, take the ones missing in the grid and compare their lengths and any letters from crossing words to the remaining clues. Continue until you complete the grid.

How to post your answer

Each entry in the grid is numbered. A list of numbers will be published as a comment for your convenience; copy and paste this list in your comment and place each word on the list. If two entries share a number, the across entry will have an "A" and the down answer will have a "D".

How to solve a Scrambler

A Scrambler is an anagram puzzle similar to the trademarked Jumble puzzle that appears in U.S. newspapers. It is a two-step, single-solution puzzle.

In the first step, you unscramble a list of anagrammed words. Each word is then entered into the blanks to its right. Some of the blanks are highlighted.

In the second step, the letters from the highlighted blanks are anagrammed into a word or phrase that is entered in the blanks at the bottom of the puzzle.

The solution consists of both the word list and the final word or phrase.

How to solve a Fit the Quote

A Fit the Quote is a single-solution puzzle made up of a series of letter boxes above a grid. Drop the letters directly down into the boxes in the correct order to form the quote. Words in the quote wrap around from the end of one line to the beginning of the line below it, with words separated by solid boxes.

How to solve cryptograms

Cryptograms are simple ciphers. One letter or symbol stands for another throughout the entire puzzle. Cryptograms are single solution puzzles.

In Crypto Quotations, the solution is a quotation and its author. To solve, begin by trial and error, guessing at the value of the symbols. Strategies for beginning include looking for short, common words and finding common word patterns. Once you figure out a few letters, it becomes easier to fill in the rest.

In Crypto Themes, the solution is a list of items that share a common theme or category. To solve, begin by thinking of items that fit the theme, and compare those to the patterns of the items in the list. Once the first match or two is made, you will have enough letters to figure out the rest of the items.

How to solve category puzzles

Category puzzles are open solution puzzles. A category is listed, and your job is to give answers that fit that category. For people only last names are valid, unless the person commonly goes by another name (e.g. Madonna). No duplicates are allowed; thus you could list "Madonna" for M, or "Madonna Ciccone" for C, but not both.

In a Category Swarm, you give as many answers as possible. Your score is equal to the number of valid answers you give.

In an Alpha Category, you give up to one answer per letter of the alphabet. Answers with more than one word are allowed, and you get one point per word starting with that letter. Therefore, scores over 26 are possible.

How to solve an Anagram List

An Anagram List is an open solution puzzle. A word or phrase is given, and the goal is to rearrange the letters to create as many new words as possible. The player or players with the most valid answers wins. Unless otherwise specified in the directions, valid answers have five or more letters and are not capitalized. Foreign words must be in ordinary use in English (for example, reservoir). Duplicate forms of the same word are not valid, except that one answer per part of speech may be listed, as long as they are not the same word. For example, labor (noun), laboring (verb), and laborious (adjective) may be listed, but labored, labors, etc. may not be added. Answers may consist of more than one word if the words together form a single common term. For example, nest egg is an acceptable answer, but not bluebird egg because it is not a common English term.

Only standard spellings are acceptable. You may use British spelling orAmerican spelling of a word (labour or labor), but not both. It's considered the same word, just different spellings. You do not have to be consistent throughout, however: you can use British spelling for some words and American spelling for others.

How to solve a Wordnet

To solve a Wordnet, fill in answers with one letter per box. Connected boxes contain the same letter. To post your solution, list all the answers in order. Wordnets are single solution puzzles. In other words, to win, you must provide the entire solution with no mistakes.

Here is an example of a Wornet:

Crossword rules

There is some variation in the conventions used in crossword puzzles from different publishers. Here are the rules for crosswords and mini-crosswords appearing on this site. These rules apply to American-style, fully interlocking crosswords only.
  1. Answers may contain multiple words. There will normally be no hint that the answer contains more than one word.
  2. If a clue contains an abbreviation, then the answer is an abbreviation. For example, "N. Amer. country" could be a clue for "CAN" or "USA".
  3. If the clue is not abbreviated, then the answer is not abbreviated. For example, "North American country" could be a clue for "CANADA" but not "USAMER". An exception is when the clue explicitly states the answer is an abbreviation; for example, "American postal service (abbrev.)" could stand for "USMAIL".
  4. If an answer contains word play or uses a non-standard sense of a term, that may be indicated by a question mark. For example, "Liquid paper?" could stand for "PULP" rather than more common sense of "correction fluid."
  5. Clues may refer to other clues or answers. These will be clear from context.

Happy solving!

Thursday, March 13, 2008


My Puzzle Fix offers readers a free daily puzzle or word game. Here's how it works: You add your solution directly on each Puzzle Page as a comment. Answers are hidden (moderated) until the puzzle's scheduled end. Then our solution is revealed and winning answers are unmoderated. Build your rankings and compete with other players!

There are two types of puzzles. One has a "single solution." That means you either solve it completely, or you don't. To win a single solution puzzle, you must give the complete solution. The other has an "open solution." That means you try to get as many answers as possible. To win an open solution puzzle, you must have the most qualifying answers. Both types of puzzle can have an unlimited number of winners. Best players will be listed in the sidebar.

In an open solution puzzle, if a judgment needs to be made whether an answer is valid or not, I will make the final decision.

My Puzzle Fix was created by Robyn Broyles. Copyright 2008.