Fast Codeword Solver Now Online @

I was both a young, novice programmer and a keen codeword solver. I wrote a basic tool in Python that used the repeated letters of codewords to solve clues.

More recently, surprised that there were no dedicated codeword solvers on the internet (but plenty of crossword solvers), I decided to share my program and open-source it, and yesterday I spent 5 or 6 hours making it a free online web service. Nobody wants to download programs to perform basic tasks, so the web solver – I hope – will become the new way that codeword fans give themselves a little help at the start.

Please check it out at next time you need to solve a codeword, crossword or hangman clue!

Terrible Job / Career Puns Story

I found this little story on my hard drive. It dates back to 2010, so I can’t remember if I discovered it one of the forums that I used to frequent or if I wrote most of it myself – either way, I’m embarrassed for digitally preserving such a profusion of tomfoolery. Nevertheless, a moment before hitting the DEL key, I thought that somebody, somewhere, might find it mildly entertaining (like Sherlock Holmes, I have a fear of destroying old things which I might, however inconceivably, need again). I know that I’m transforming my blog into my wastebin by doing so, but I’m posting it here:

My first job was working in an orange juice factory, but I got canned. I just couldn’t concentrate.  Then I worked in the woods as a lumberjack, but I just couldn’t hack it, so they gave me the axe.  After that, I had a go at being a tailor, but I wasn’t suited for it; it was a sew-sew career.  Next was a job in a shoe factory. I tried but I couldn’t fit in. Then I became a fisherman, yet I soon discovered that I couldn’t live on my net income. My next job, in a lingerie shop, was pants.

After many years of trying to find steady work, I finally got a job as an historian – until I realized there was no future in it.  Then, I tried to be a chef – I figured it would add a little spice to my life, but I didn’t have the thyme.  Finally, I saw myself being an optician so I studied hard – but I was always eyeing the receptionist. So I made a spectacle of myself by proposing to her, and I’m still happily married to Iris today.

This Codeword Solver Tool quickly solves any Codeword/Crossword Puzzle Clue!

Click here to go to the online codeword solver

As a keen cruciverbalist and consumer of all things cryptic, I’m interested in linguistic games, even when, as in the case of codewords, they involve a little numerical crossbreeding.

Codeword are puzzles in which you need to fill in the words in a crossword-stye grid.  Each letter of the alphabet is substituted for a number between 1 and 26.  There are no clues but you are given a couple of letters to help you on your way.  I don’t know how popular codewords are in the US; here in the UK all the quality papers provide one daily.

codeword solver

codeword solver

About a year ago I was stuck on a fiendish codeword and, not wanting to pay the extortionate rates that papers charge on their puzzle helplines, I decided to create a codeword solver using my rather basic coding skills.  I dusted it off today and created a video demonstration of it in action bulldozing a codeword:

Using this tool (download here), you can quickly and easily solve codeword and crossword clues. Here’s how it works:

  1. First, the word length of the search term is checked and a list is grabbed which contains all of the dictionary words of that length.
  2. Next, the program goes through the list and chops up all the words into individual letters, with each letter being matched to a number. So the word “green” becomes “1:g, 2:r, 3:e, 4:e , 5:n;” In programming, incidentally, this number-letter correspondence is also called a dictionary.
  3. The search term is also turned into a dictionary and compared against the list.  If my search was “….n”, the fact that the item 5:n is in both the word “green” and the search is enough to qualify “green” for the next stage.
  4. Next, the program essentially converts the search term and the items in the list into a series of just dots and numbers – i.e. it keeps repeated letters and ignores single cases of letters.  So “green” becomes “..00.” and this pattern must match the search term (although the actual numbers used doesn’t matter).
  5. List of all remaining words is outputted.

Even if one used this to solve an entire codeword, I would not really see it as cheating – just an alternative solving method.  Every time you type a pattern and get a list of results, you learn some interesting things and may even expand your lexicon.

I find it fascinating to study the way that words are constructed. English is unique in the vastness of its foreign influences, and several of the most difficult (and sometimes the easiest) crossword/codeword clues are loan words, like “verandah”.  These words do not follow the same letter-ordering logic that characterises most English vocabulary.

When you see an incomplete word, say: r _ _ e _ t _ _, what goes through your mind? Why does the full word suddenly jump into your head on some days, whilst on others nothing comes for hours?  Does the fact that you’ve already read the full word in the article above make it easier to solve?

It’s repeated, by the way.

On the final round of the UK game show Only Connect, cultural things like books titles or names of generals have their vowels deleted, leaving “llt” for Lolita, for example.  The contestants vary widely in their performance in this round.  Half of the contestants never buzz in at all, whilst others seem to be impossibly fast at seeing answers across all knowledge-spheres, like the guy below:

I only get there quicker than the contestants when the category of the clues is something that I know an awful lot about.  Otherwise, I’m slow.  It seems conceivable that you could improve your abilities by solving crosswords/codewords and by playing Scrabble, and I’m sure that you’d become a better conversationalist in the meantime too.  The right words would arise from the deep at the right time.  As you can hear in the first video, I falter in my speech when I come to particular words and sometimes employ the wrong prepositions and other awkward phrases, even though I’m a competent native speaker.  I’d like to know why this happens.

If I had to program a computer to be a good Only Connect player, it would have to contain a database of all cultural phenomena.  Even so, it would take a very large number of operations for the string with the missing vowels to be checked against all potential matches within the correct cultural category.  Does the human mind really perform thousands of operations when it completes the vowels, solves an anagram or produces a codeword answer?  Something to ponder over a glass of wine (a little wine seems to boost my delivery; I can’t find any research to suggest that this is an acknowledged effect though).

The New Curator

I’m Laurence Tennant, a student from Cambridge, UK.  Eric has kindly agreed for me to become the main ‘curator’ of this excellent blog.  I haven’t managed to contact him for several days now, so I assume that he has held true to his promise of discarding his laptop.

I first encountered this site a few months ago via an inane google search: “top 10 gym stereotypes“.  I found Eric’s article amusing and proceeded to read his entire corpus in one great blog-consuming binge session.  Whilst I digested the wisdom of greenMinimalism, I felt suddenly immersed in a very unique and far-reaching corner of the minimalist sphere.  Here was an intelligent guy, also an English graduate (like me, by happy concurrence), living in a camper van and exiling himself to an almost priestly life of healthy discipline.  Although job interviews and corporate meetings have soiled the word “inspiring” as much as Stephenie Meyer has desecrated the once-beautiful word “twilight”, “inspiring” is the word that springs to mind when I peruse Eric’s old posts.

I rather nervously submitted my first article to Eric a some weeks ago.  I didn’t know if he would be keen to publish an essay so incongruous with his usual style.  Yet not only did he promptly post my essay, he also asked me if I wanted to become a frequent feature and future admin here!  Fortuity was confirmed when several posts later, by some remarkable coincidence caused no doubt by the alignment of Venus and Jupiter, Seamus Heaney died later the very same day that I published my analysis of his poetry.

There are a couple of caveats involved in this handing-over-of-the-baton:

  • My new writing will focus mostly, if not exclusively, on poetry. I hope that I will be able to use that medium – the most ambiguous, compressed, and playful of linguistic mediums – to continue to reach the same sorts of conclusions that Eric did.  But even if I succeed at somehow keeping the “spirit” of greenMinimalism alive, I imagine that a fair subset of readers are here principally for the fitness advice and motivation; alas, henceforth such information will be sparse.
  • Rather embarrassingly for somebody who claims to be obsessed with language, I cannot speak any foreign languages fluently.  I will make posts about my progress in learning French and Italian, along with any useful tips that I discover.
  • My posts will typically be longer essays and will come far more infrequently than they did under Eric’s disciplined posting schedule.
  • Finally, the theme must change to something less utilitarian and ‘box-like’. I’ve fiddled around with the controls and done the necessary deed already!


As early as a month ago I had grand plans for this blog. I wanted to continue writing a post three times a week for the next few years until greenMinimalism became a well-known voice in the minimalist blogosphere.

However, life has intervened. I’m still having some difficulty with internet addiction and have therefore decided to sell my laptop. Internet access from now on must be got from the library, and this will not facilitate regular posting. Furthermore, I have lost the motivation to continue writing on new topics and feel that I have already pretty much said all that I want to say here. To write anything new would just be to rephrase the old.

Before I leave, I’m going to delete the chaff and just try to keep the best information that I produced, leaving a core of posts that should inspire anyone to cut down, exercise more and get healthy. I should also add that I feel bad in some sense for “creative lying”. I sung the praises of meditation even though I stopped meditating myself, admittedly, after a long period of getting no results. I was also pushing my luck in terms of the claims that I was making in post titles. All successful blogs (Pavlina or Altucher) seem to over-advertise themselves using such tricks, i.e. “5 Reasons Why I Want My Kids To Take Drugs”. I fear that this ridiculous self-promoting behavior was starting to seep into my blog style too. Another good reason to quit the blogging realm.

So from now on, the other writer, Laurence will be taking complete control of greenMinimalism. Hopefully he will keep up the outstanding quality of the posts that he has written so far.