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Grandad's Crosswords

Hard Codeword Puzzles

Codeword puzzles are one of the most popular newspaper puzzles, and the aim of the game is simple, although solving them might not be.

In order to solve a codeword puzzle, you must crack a code. The code assigns a different number to each letter of the alphabet. This means, therefore, that the grid contains numbers 1-26 in each of the white squares, and each number matches a single letter of the alphabet. You must work out which number represents each letter of the alphabet from A-Z. It is important to note that every letter from A-Z appears in the grid at least a single time.

You are normally given some start letters to get you going - these may be specifically chosen to give you a big hint to a word, or even reveal one, or are often simply picked at random to add some variability to the difficulty of the puzzle.

If you are given less letters to start you off, then the puzzle generally becomes harder. In our 'hard codeword series' we have 50 puzzles that contain one single clue letter, and another fifty that contain no clues at all, so these are for hardened solvers who want something a bit more challenging!

But how do you go about solving a puzzle that has no given letters to start you off?

The key is to look at the number of times each number appears in the grid. The number that appears the most times is very likely to be the E, since that it is the most common letter in the English alphabet, although there are other common letters like T, A that it could be too. It is very unlikely however to be a relatively rare letter like K.

So to get started you might like to count the number of times each number appears, and then make an educated guess that the top three or four letters are highly like to contain the two vowels, E and A. From there you can pencil one in and see what letter patterns result. For instance, after an A you are much more likely to have a consonant than another vowel, and by looking at the patterns of the vowels in words you can start to get a feel for the likelihood of what those consonants might be and even start assigning actual words to the grid.

There are of course various other patterns you can spot - if you have the letter 'I' with two other letters after it that are unknown, there is a good chance this is going to be an -ING word or an -ION word. Double-letters are much more common with some letters of the alphabet than others. A number that appears quite a number of times as the last letter of words is likely to be an 'S' so you might like to count the number of times each number appears at the end of words and if one is quite a big higher than the others, it is likely to be the S.

And of course there are some words that have a specific repeating pattern like BANANA that contains only three letters, so if you spot number patterns like 1,2,3,2,3,1 in the grid (of course most likely using three different numbers) then this can also alert you to possible words in the grid.

In summary, there are lots of ways of making progress when solving a codeword puzzle, even one where you have no letters to get you started. If you like hard codewords, as mentioned at the top we have a series of these books available to buy on Amazon, here is a link to the first in the series if you would like to give it a go and see if your codeword solving skills are up to the task!

Hard codewords

If you have any particular thoughts or techniques you'd like to share on solving codewords, then please do use the comments section to let us know!


Date written: 31 Mar 2023

Category: codewords | Keywords: codewords


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