Scrambled word and Crossword Solver


I've always hated scrambled words.  Everyone in my family was better at them than me.  I decided that there has to be a better way, so in 1982 I wrote my first word descrambler in Applesoft (tm) Basic on an Apple ][ computer.  It was very slow, and it took longer to solve one six letter word than for my friends to finish four or five.

The code was modestly improved several times, and was ported to the MS-DOS environment in about 1987.  It still wasn't very good, but at least it didn't require 4 floppy switches during execution!

The "Third generation" word descrambler was written in c under SunOS Unix in 1991 as part of a programming contest.  Shortly thereafter, the crossword feature was added.  Well, really it wasn't added; it was a separate executable.

With the growth of the World Wide Web, I decided to combine the word descrambler and crossword solver into one CGI based application in 1994.  The same code was used; only the I/O routines were changed.   The word descrambler was made available on the web in March of 1995. The descrambler, along with the rest my page, were served from the lab of Dr. James Hardy at The University of Akron Chemistry Department (HordeNet).  The Macintosh descrambler continues to run in Dr. Hardy's lab.

In addition to multiple other awards, the word descrambler was featured on CNN on May 19, 1996.  Click here for article

The word descrambler was ported to HordeNet's new Macintosh server, and continues to run there. 

On July 2, 1998, the Unix based descrambler was made available again on this new site, and ran on a Sun SPARC station.  On September 8, 1998, a new domain was registered.  Recent improvements have included expansion of the dictionary, and changes in the user interface. On February 11, 1999, 21st Century Cable ceased to allow web hosting over my cable modem system.  Since they jerked me around for several weeks deciding what they were going to do, the site was unavailable.  A lease was signed for a new server on March 4, 1999, and the site ran on a dedicated colocated server. (Pentium/FreeBSD).

On June 29, 2002, the process of moving the site to another new host was begun, at that time a Pentium 4 Dell PC with Linux.  The current server is in my home in downtown Chicago and runs on a MacPro, and is connected to the Internet via DSL (SBC/Ameritech, now AT&T). 

In june 2007, due to trademark issues, the site was moved to a new site, The site is also accessible from the author's third level domain
In January 2008, the site was moved to Macintosh. The server ran on a Mac Mini under MacOS X Leopard. In June of 2008, the site was moved to a Mac Pro also running Lepard.

Technical Details:

The Word descrambler currently is served from an Apple MacPro with Leopard Server. The system has 32 GB RAM and 4TB of RAID. The code is written in c, and was compiled using the gnu gcc compiler. CGI interface routines were obtained from NCSA.

The word descrambler uses a custom dictionary which I have pieced together from multiple sources.  Most of the words come from the 1915 Webster dictionary and the Word net dictionary, which were obtained from  A spelling dictionary, /usr/dict/words, and special request words have also been added.  The words themselves, without definitions, were extracted and combined using specially written programs. Due to copyright and licensing restrictions, I can not distribute the raw dictionary.
The word descrambler works by counting the number of each letter in the word, and then comparing the letter count to the words of the same length in the dictionary.

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