Word Sandwich

One word-related on-line game that I play when I have a few minutes to kill is Word Sandwich. I don’t know how long it will be available in that version, as it’s a Flash game, but there are presumably other versions around, as it’s a very simple game and should be simple to implement some version of it. Essentially, you are trying to guess a five-letter English word by guessing other five-letter English words, and being told if your guess is before or after the target word alphabetically. The interface shows the two closest words you have guessed as the bread in your word sandwich, in case you have forgotten what you’ve already typed, as I surprisingly often have.

The thing is—I’m not very good at this game. I enjoy it, but I am consistently at the bottom of the rankings of the people who still play it. Admittedly, that’s very few people at this point, and it seems likely that many people worse than I am have stopped finding enjoyment from it, but still. I am used to being in the top quintile or so of word games on-line, and in this game, I’m definitely not.

This is presumably because it takes me more intermediate words than other players, which means there is a better strategy than the one I am following. So I thought I’d ask y’all what a better strategy would be.

Here’s what I do: I start with TABLE, which I figure is about two-thirds of the way through the list. That could be wrong! I suppose I could get hold of the whole list of five-letter words and find out what word is two-thirds of the way through. Still, that’s my strategy: if the word is after TABLE alphabetically, then I’ve narrowed it down a lot, and if it’s before (as two-thirds or so will be) I have narrowed it down at least some.

If it is before, I go to FABLE. Before FABLE I go to CABLE, and then either BABEL or DAIRY; and then I’ve presumably got the initial letter and can start working on the second letter.

If it’s after FABLE, I go to MAPLE. Before MAPLE is JACKS (As I type this, I realize that JABOT is better than JACKS) and then either HAIRY or LABEL and so on and so forth. After MAPLE, I generally jump all the way to SABLE, and then if it’s an S as so many words are, I’m in the right aisle. If it’s before S, then I will often go to PACED, and then I have NACRE or RABID.

In the end, I’m trying to get, with a few guesses, to the first letter, and then I start working on the second. This often works reasonably well. As in:




or perhaps


and one more


As you can tell, once I have the first two letters, I’m pretty much guessing blindly. You get points in this implementation of the game for using fewer words, but also points for not taking too long between words, so if I can think of a word between the two words of my sandwich, I’ll type it at that point.

And perhaps that’s where I’m going wrong. Perhaps all the people who are averaging 9 or 10 guesses have much better strategy for their seventh and eighth guesses that I haven’t figured out or type too slow to implement. Or maybe I should be starting with SABLE instead of TABLE, or with RABBI, or maybe with MACKS. Or maybe y’all have a better suggestion?


2 Responses to “Word Sandwich”

  1. Frederic Bush

    I think you could improve your score with a word list that is indexed by number but I am not sure it would be enjoyable to do so!

    You could split the word list into 256 even buckets, say, or however many you can fit onto a flowchart and still read (128?) Then you always pick the midpoint word for the first seven rounds. You have your moves entirely telegraphed in advance until you get way down there. But that doesn’t seem fun at all.

    Alternately, if you unscrupulously wanted to improve your average score, you could open with something about 10% through the alphabet (CHEAT, say) and then abandon the game if the word isn’t in that narrow band. That would save you 2+ turns if you got lucky. Again:not fun!

  2. Jessica

    I haven’t played Word Sandwich yet, but will try it soon. I’m Words With Friends, which I play often, I’ve found that how good a player is seems to have less to do with either natural skill or strategy and more to do with experience in playing that particular game (including learning the many made-up words that count as acceptable). If you keep playing, you will probably improve your scores.


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