Wordwheel is a popular puzzle in many newspapers. A nine-letter word is scrambled and written in a circle of eight spokes with the ninth letter being written at the centre. There are two tasks: 1. find the nine-letter word; 2. find as many words of 3 letters and above using its letters (letters may only be used once per word). All words must include the letter written at the centre of the wheel. For our puzzles there is only one possible nine-letter word. The game includes 1000 interesting words. Every time a word is loaded it is rescrambled so there are very many potential games.

The game has an option to use shading to provide additional information to the player. This option is switched on in the example figure, but not at the start of the worked example video. The shading shows the remaining number of words starting with the letters in the wheel or of the lengths shown in the three boxes either side of the white input box. The colours fade as the words are found, white meaning none.


Below the wheel is a row of nine boxes. These are used to show clues to the nine-letter word. Below this is a central input box flanked by two sets of numbers. The player can enter words by placing the cursor in this input box and and then typing on the keyboard. Below this box is a space for listing the words entered by the player: if an entered word is correct it will be displayed here.

Wordwheel Example

Wordwheel Example

A partially completed wordwheel game with shading switched on.

At the top of the display is a Toolbar. The jigsaw piece button at the left is a menu which has options for choosing the game type, selecting shading, the maximum game duration, the font size, and for saving the current settings. To the right of the puzzle icon is the game icon used to start a new game, a hint button, and a sad smiley which is used to show the solution. Right again is a box for entering puzzle numbers. Right again is a counter for the number of words remaining. It will count down as the game progresses. To a large extent the number of words depends on the choice of letter at the centre of the wheel. Players can adjust this by placing the cursor in the puzzle number box and typing "Enter" which will cause the word to be rescrambled. Right again is a clock which ticks every 5 seconds. The hint button helps with the nine-letter word. Every click on the wand will add one of the word's letters to the wide white box. To reorder the letters in the wheel click on the central letter with the middle mouse button. To rescramble the word put the cursor in the puzzle number box and hit Enter.

As with all of our games, the use of the solving aids such as shading, hint buttons and wheel rescrambling is entirely optional! They are there for the people who want them or for those learning how to play the games successfully.

The worked example should clarify the use of the various controls.

Entering words

Define words by left clicking on the letters. Right click to finish a word, middle click to undo a letter. Alternatively enter the words using the keyboard after first placing the mouse cursor in the white box. Correctly entered words will be transferred to the large grey box.

Wordwheel Worked Example

A video to demonstrate wordwheel options. At the start shading is switched off. The player uses the menu to switch shading on and a new puzzle is selected by entering its number into the box and typing "Enter". Then the player repeatedly types "Enter" while the cursor remains in the box. Notice that though the puzzle number is unchanged the letters in the wheel are scrambled each time so that they are rearranged on the wheel, and when the central letter changes the number of words to be found (shown to the right of the puzzle number box) changes accordingly. Next the player positions the cursor on the centre of the wheel and repeatedly middle-clicks the mouse. Each click scrambles the letter around the wheel, leaving the central letter unchanged. This does not change the number of words to find but by reordering the letters can enable players to see new words to enter.

The player then uses the hint button to help guess the nine-letter word. Each click on the button will position a randomly chosen letter of the word on the board. After a few hints the player gets the word and, putting the cursor in the white box, types the word on the keyboard. It is correct and the program copies it to the listing area and fills in the letters in the hint panel. The player then types a few more words, at one point forgetting that valid words must include the letter at the centre of the wheel. She then enters words by clicking on the wheel. Finally she hits the "Show solution" button and the program puts the remaining words in the listing area along with a summary of the player's performance.

Word Lists

The game includes 1000 nine-letter words and all the anagrams they contain. Brian Kelk's UK English wordlist has the frequencies of use for each word. We randomly chose from the least frequently used nine-letter words, removed any that had nine-letter anagrams and found all their shorter anagrams.

If you have your own list of words you'd like to use instead - say for educational purposes - we could create the corresponding wordwheel.