Scrambled-letter puzzles are a fun way to challenge your word power. They can also expand your vocabulary because you may be compelled to look up unfamiliar answers that you miss. There are several strategies for finding words buried in this type of puzzle. Practice will make them second nature.
Look for three-letter words such as “cot,” “mad,” or “red.” Begin with the first letter in the list and pair it with the second. Then try each of the other letters as a final letter. Let’s say the letters are “b,” “i,” “d,” “r,” “e” and “s”. Use the first letter (“b”) and the second (“i”), then add the next letter (“d”) and see if it makes a word (it does: “bid”). Now try the “b” and the “i” with the next letter (“r”) to see if you get a word (you don’t.) Keep going until you’ve tried all the combinations. If any combination of first and second letter doesn’t make sense, skip the one you’re using as the second letter and move on. In the example above, if the “i” were an “f,” you could skip it because no English word starts with the letters “bf” (abbreviations don’t count).
Look at your list of three-letter words, and then see if you have a letter that can turn any of them into a four-letter word. The letters “s” and “e” are especially useful. Most nouns and some verbs can become plural by adding an “s,” so “cot” can become “cots.” Adding an “e” to the end of “mad” gives you “made” or, in the example above, turns “bid” to “bide.” Other letters can help you make a new word as well. Add the “r” to “bid” and you have “bird.”
Try to combine the extra letters you used in step two. In our example, you’ll find you can turn “bid” to “bids” and “bide” and then “bide” to “bides.” From there it’s a simple step to add in the “r” to find “bride” and “brides.”
Look at your list of words and try swapping the letters around. Remember “cots?” Swap the “t” and the “s” and you have “cost.” If you’ve got another “s,” you can even have “costs.” “Froth” can become “forth” and “blade” can become “baled.”
Look for ways to use common letter combinations. “Ed” and “er” can make “pal” into “paled” and “paler.” They can also be reversed and added to the beginning of a word to make “rerun” or “defend.” “T” and “h” often appear together in words like “both” and “that” (and “together”). Add any one of nine consonants to “ight” to get words such as “light, “fight,” “might” and “tight.”
When you think you’ve found them all, just stare at the letters and see what pops out at you. You’ll be surprised at how many words you missed when you were analyzing the letters one by one.
- When you think you've found them all, just stare at the letters and see what pops out at you. You'll be surprised at how many words you missed when you were analyzing the letters one by one.
Maggie Worth has more than 18 years of marketing and business management experience. She has conducted training classes in resume, fiction and web writing and has written textbooks, resumes, professional and technical documents, ad copy, video scripts and articles for lifestyle magazines. She is director of marketing communications strategy and special projects for a university.