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Achievements in Word Games

Published by marco on

Queen Bee

Since COVID-19 has put me into 100% home office for a while[1], I’ve been doing the Spelling Bee at lunch with Kath instead of shooting the shit with work colleagues at Encodo.

As the link outlines, the Spelling Bee has an achievement called Queen Bee—where you have to guess every single one of the words that the author thinks are words (and bite back curses at his utterly mysterious omissions)—which we’ve only achieved twice.

 Queen Bee 2020-11-21

 Queen Bee Answers 2020-11-21

We’ve gotten within a word or two several times, but generally failed to see a word we should definitely have gotten rather than missed a word we didn’t know. The puzzles with a smaller number of words are generally easier to solve more thoroughly, which is not say that any of them are easy.

Crossword Puzzle

We’ve been doing the New York Times crossword puzzle for many years. As you can see below, we are on a prodigious streak of 576 days in a row[2]. We answer everything honestly, without looking anything up.

 Fastest Saturday: November 28th, 2020

We have greatly benefitted from the NYT’s more lenient policy with rebuses. Whereas many years ago, they were, at times, unfairly strict in applying the rules—i.e. horizontal-only, vertical-only, both, all letters—they have now switched to accepting any legitimate combination, correcting to the preferred version on completion.

Cryptic Crossword

Once every couple of months, the New York Times also publishes a Cryptic Crossword, which is a whole other level of difficult, much harder than the standard crossword (even Saturday).

The cryptic version of the crossword seems to have originated in England, in the London Times. They are fiendishly difficult and take a lot of practice to gain any sort of facility in solving them. Each clue contains instructions for solving it—an anagram, a word contained in the clue, a pun, a combination of words. The only bit of assistance is that the clue indicates the number and length of the words in the answer.

Recently, we were able to solve one without checking any answers, looking anything up, or asking to fill in any letters. We solved it over several days. The picture below shows the puzzle and the clues (although the time is too long by an hour—it must have kept running when we paused).

 Cryptic Crossword 2020-11-01

As an example, the first clue is “Recipes confused bores (7)”. The answer is a single word, seven letters long. The “confused” is a hint that the answer is an anagram (that the letters are jumbled or “confused”) and the length of “Recipes” is seven letters. The final word “bores” is the clue: in this case, as a synonym for “pierces”, which is the answer.

That’s kind of an easy one. It’s not unusual to guess the answer and then reconstruct the reasoning afterward. As in any crossword, crossings are helpful.

For those interested in trying one, it might be easier to start with a Puns and Anagrams puzzle—available in the same section—which is like a lighter version of a cryptic.


[1] And for the foreseeable future.
[2] 579 as of today.