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Looking For Wordle Alternatives? These Fun Word Puzzles Are Just as Addictive

Looking For More Literary Challenges? Try These Digital Games

It’s tough to nail down an answer to the question: How many five-letter words are there?

The Free Dictionary lists 158,390. Age, disuse, technical or scientific specificity, etc., make most of them rare or even extinct in common use. A programmer found that there were 12,972 usable letter combinations to fit the Wordle puzzle. Further whittling down five-letter words, there are about 9,000 acceptable board plays in the Scrabble dictionary. At one word a day, this nine grand provides about 25 year’s worth of daily Wordles.

This sounds more daunting than exciting. Even with repeated play, there’s a redundancy that leaves users thirsty for more letter-oriented action. When the yen hits, here are six Wordle alternatives that can occupy begging brains.

Letters on a Scrabble board spell out, Dad, Die and more.
Rob Friesel

Get ready for the best Wordle alternatives to fill alphabetic appetites.

Scrabble Go

When you don’t know where to start, go back to the beginning.

Scrabble was the original branch to grow from the American word game tree. First created in 1931, the board game has graced millions of tables in the last nine decades. The advent of handheld computers now allows people to compete against friends, strangers, and AI.

Launched in 2020, Scrabble Go is an all out assault on traditional Scrabble game play. Laid out on a traditional board and aligned to the official Scrabble dictionary, users can play several different games and styles at once. Multiplayer modes, random matches, matches of the day, and various quests keep players in enough action to satisfy even the strongest competitive word urges.

This board is on fire! What 🔥 words would you add? pic.twitter.com/FkYv4wlSIU

— Scrabble GO (@ScrabbleGO) July 3, 2022

Really the biggest Scrabble Go challenge is how to log off the action. The game is a free in-app Android and Apple purchase. If that’s not enough action, check out The Poo List for words considered too offensive for the game.

Spelling Bee, The New York Times

The New York Times Spelling Bee began in the paper’s print spinoff, The New York Times Magazine, in 2014. As legions of fans turned into loyal hordes, the online game launched in 2018 and has been a resounding smash since then.

Game play arrives in a honey comb — six grayed letters surrounding a seventh, yellow letter in the middle. The goal is to create as many words as possible (four letters and more) that contain the middle letter. The ticklish challenge has not only driven subscriptions, but created a host of daily devotees.

Some wake up at 3 a.m. to achieve Queen Bee, an Easter egg level reached only when a player finds all words on that day’s list while others will argue on social media that ‘Dominican’ is an acceptable word. (It’s not — it’s a proper noun.)

Seriously @nytimes. #spellingbee Dominican is a word. pic.twitter.com/48GI7A0Iuh

— Dr. Jermaine McDonald (he/his) (@revjmmcdonald) August 1, 2022

The only hitch with Spelling Bee is that the app does requires at NYT subscription, but users can play for free online (up to a capped level).

Wordscapes

Speaking of addicting, Wordscapes is one of those apps that make people roll over in the middle of the night for a dopamine hit.

Wordscapes hit diff at 4:32am ;) pic.twitter.com/rbcpy3eWKn

— Rere (@rewaothmann) July 27, 2022

The game provides a crossword grid above a circle of six letters. The goal of Wordscapes is to fill in the bubbled blanks with words that fit into the crossword puzzle. The action might seem easy after a few tries, but the challenge escalates quickly. And like a food crumb caught between teeth, the sight of a missing word can drive users crazy.

Luckily, the game isn’t timed, so there’s no penalty for taking a while to consider different combinations. The really stymied can even start filling in hypotheses because Wordscape does not deduct points or coins for ridiculous attempts.

Launched by PeopleFun in 2017, the game remains a dominant download for iOS and Android systems, including more than 120 million downloads, 4.5 million daily active users, and 14.8 million monthly active users in 2021, according to an interview with the company on App Lovin. Part of this is the almost endless puzzles to complete. With 6,000 levels to overcome before passing the Sublime level, expert users can unlock further the Master levels.

Crosswords With Friends

People looking for more lingual action might do well to give a nod to the game genre’s roots — the 1920s crossword craze.

(Calling the invention of crossword puzzles a ‘craze’ might seem like overkill, but, as Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader points out, a bored world apparently lost its mind as the new game hit the street. A man shot his betrothed when she wouldn’t help him solve a puzzle and another man left behind a crossword suicide note.)

A YouTube screen shot of a Crosswords With Friends template explainer.
YouTube

Crosswords With Friends combines the challenge of word clues with the thrill (and frustration) of collaborative and competitive play with family and friends (and soon-to-be enemies).

App play works similarly to any other printed crossword puzzle. Clues appear below the board, and a keyboard is available to hazard attempts to solve them. Solve alone, against, or alongside other players. Better yet, get a group together and consult the leaderboard to see who can finish in the fastest time.

There will be a few ads, but the app is free for Android and iOS users.

SpellTower

For a more fast-paced competition, try the Tetris-style SpellTower. Play alone or with friends to clear a path through the block tower before tiles are smushed on top.

Once users match a word utilizing adjoining lettered plates, pieces disappear, and remaining tiles fall to occupy the vacated spaces. Like Tetris, matched rows change the board’s configuration. Advanced players can think ahead to create situations for higher-scoring combos several moves ahead.

Watch out because the game stirs in a little chaotic zest to the best laid plans. Players are rewarded for matching longer words, but the game deletes adjacent tiles, which can be helpful… or fatal. Additional twists include unusable empty tiles, and blue tiles that only disappear if an entire row makes a nine-letter word — a difficult objective, if there ever was one.

In addition to the scrolling action, a neat option arrives in the form of word challenges. Upon a word challenge, SpellTower will search a digital dictionary to confirm the word’s acceptance. Winning a challenge adds the word to the game’s database.

I regret to inform you that I've added "teabag" to SpellTower

— fasterthanlime 🌌 (@fasterthanlime) July 29, 2022

SpellTower does require a rote step route through levels to unlock more complicated, diverse modes. Tower Mode unlocks Puzzle Mode and Ex Puzzle Mode, which adds an element of danger as new rows appear to replace found words. Rush Mode might as well be called Tetris mode with lines that cascade from the ceiling as a timer ticks down. Multiplayer gameplay ups this ante by inserting a vanished row onto the opponent’s board.

Spell Tower is free with ads and $5 without in the App Store and Google Play.

PictoWord

PictoWord brings a bit of visual and spatial reasoning into the literary action. Instead of solving a puzzle, the app asks players to combine two words to form a third word, unrelated by definition. Think: a picture of an ear plus a ring equals…? Yep, earring.

A correct guess will reveal the word beneath a picture, allowing users at least half of the word. The game is a marked change from other word apps, requiring a different part of the brain. Wordsters may find that the game is not as easy as putting letters together. A picture of flames means ‘hot’? I suppose so…

Pictos repeat and always mean the same thing. A rain cloud will always mean ‘rain’ and flames will always mean ‘hot,’ so there’s a chance of the game getting old. There are thousands of words available, so there has to be a lot of gameplay before that might happen.

Slang bonus words dash in a bit of spice, granting gamers extra points for discovery, and bonus rounds offer timed challenges. There are, however, no opportunities for opponents, so the game remains more of a casual distraction than constant action. It’s available in the App Store and Google Play.

Pictoword Trailer

Apps vary from the brain-draining to the refreshing. In addition to Wordle, these word games can be an entertaining break from the day and an excellent brain exercise. Like anything, enjoy in moderation.

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