How to outwit (or at least survive) our secret word game

Hunting for the day’s secret word is a lot like Battleship, only you’re up against AI and playing on a three-hundred-dimensional board that’s as complex as all human thought.

Some days, it’s easy to feel lost in a secret word game. So here are some strategies that seem to help in various situations.

  1. Try some simple, one or two syllable words. They’re more commonly used, so seem somewhat more likely to rank in the top 1,000.
  2. Test your conviction that a word has a particular valance—for example, that it’s better or bigger or more positive—by trying some antonyms, for example, words that point towards worse, smaller or negative. You may be surprised… or unsurprised!
  3. We know one player who, to get a fresh start every day, initially guesses words that relate to her current location, either physical or emotional. 
  4. If your guesses start to fall into a rut, try jumping to a new part of speech—nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions.
  5. And if you’re feeling particularly rutted or rudderless, try alliterating… deal, devil, details, delight, dereliction, doofus… 
  6. Sometimes if you can’t break into the top 1,000 in 40 or 50 guesses, and you don’t want to use a hint, try jumping outside the Venn diagram, rather than into its middle—experiment with guesses that explicitly do not fit any of the patterns you’ve been testing. 
  7. If you’re unable to get closer than a proximity of 100-500, try to imagine a word that’s not a synonym for your best guesses, but rather encompasses them. For example, “love,” “smooch,” “conquer” and “dominate” seem to have nothing in common… until you realize the day’s secret word is “crush.”
  8. Sometimes when you’re stuck in the top 50 words but can’t get a bullseye, think of words that might accompany, rather than mirror, your best guesses. For example, if you’ve finally zeroed in on a string of closely aligned words that are almost there—#2 championship, #5 championships, #7 champion. You find that “crown” is #3 and “win” is #14. What’s the word? The bullseye is… “title.”

Of course, some days are easy. You start scoring well with synonyms like “hot,” “warm” and “humid,” all of which point straight at the secret word “sizzling.” Bullseye!

If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy our take on the philosophical implications of our secret word game.