Reference Books and Periodicals For Puzzle Solvers and Composers 
By Merlin, updated by Saxifrage
 Thesauri and Crossword-Puzzle Dictionaries

Aside from the obvious NI2, NI3, and 11C, the solver’s best friends are thesauri and crossword-puzzle dictionaries. The thesauri most popular with the Krewe are The St. Martin’s Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, edited by Robert A. Dutch (St. Martin’s Press, 1986); and Roget’s International Thesaurus, fifth edition, edited by Robert L. Chapman (HarperCollins, 1992). Many other versions of Roget’s exist, including Roget’s International Thesaurus, sixth edition, edited by Barbara Ann Kipfer (HarperResource, 2002). The Chapman thesaurus has many categorized lists throughout. The most comprehensive book of synonyms in dictionary format is almost certainly The Synonym Finder, by J. I. Rodale (Rodale Press, 1978).

Many crossword-puzzle dictionaries are available, but by far the most useful to solvers is The Master Crossword Puzzle Dictionary, by H. M. Baus (Doubleday, 1981; reprinted by Barnes & Noble, 1992) -- which, alas, is currently not available in bookstores. Expensive copies occasionally appear in used-book stores and on Internet auction sites such as eBay. Baus in NPL usage always means this book, not his smaller and much less useful Expert’s Crossword Dictionary. Baus contains many errors, but that fault is more than offset by the breadth of coverage provided.

Also helpful is The New York Times Crossword Dictionary, third edition, by T. Pulliam and C. Grundman (Times Books, 1995). P&G, as the Krewe calls it, is particularly useful for its long lists of persons by nationality under subjects like “composer,” “historian,” “painter,” and so forth. A new addition to the crossword dictionary pile is The New York Times Square One Crossword Dictionary, compiled by Famulus (Stanley Newman) and Dandylion (Daniel Stark) (Random House, 1999), which is based on contemporary crossword-puzzle clues. [Also their even newer offering, The Million Word Crossword Dictionary(Random House, 2004). -- Webmaster Dart]

Three collections of lists of words by category are also good solving tools. Both The Crossworder’s List Book, by John E. and Margaret H. Brown (St. Martin’s Press, 1977), and The British Crossword Puzzle Dictionary, by J. M. Bailie (Doubleday, 1978), group words by category and by length within each category. Both books have a decided British bias. Section II of the New American Crossword Puzzle Dictionary, by Albert & Loy Morehead (New American Library, 1967), contains 180 pages of similar lists. In 1986, Philip Morehead prepared a “new revised and expanded edition” of this dictionary, but it has fewer lists by category than the first edition.

One work that goes beyond the usual bounds of a categorized word list, in that it includes definitions of the terms, is Stephen Glazier’s Random House Webster’s Word Menu (Random House, 1992/1997). Its logical system of categories and subcategories makes it easy to use.

 Anagram Dictionaries

A number of so-called anagram dictionaries are on the market, but they are not dictionaries of anagrams as we know them in the NPL. Rather, the letters of words are rearranged in alphabetical order and the words that can be formed from each such group of letters are given. Thus, after the letters AEGIMNRST you will find GERMANIST, MASTERING, and STREAMING in Chambers Anagrams (W & R Chambers, 1985) and EMIGRANTS, GERMANIST, MASTERING, and STREAMING in the Longman Anagram Dictionary, by R. J. Edwards (Longman, 1985). The Cassell Anagram Dictionary (Cassell, 1992) works differently: it lists only words that have transposals. Thus, under EMIGRANTS it lists GERMANIST, MASTERING, REMASTING, and STREAMING, and this set appears four more times, under each of the other words. All three books include words (and phrases) up to 15 letters in length.

There are two well-known true anagram dictionaries. The New Anagrammasia, compiled by Ross Eckler (Word Ways, 1991), contains 8876 anagrams and antigrams published between 1797 and 1991 (mostly in The Enigma). Though it is not currently in print, it may soon be available on the NPL Web site. Palindromes and Anagrams, by Howard W. Bergerson (Dover Publications, 1973), is useful, since it includes long and proper-name anagrams that are omitted from the former work. The anagrams in these books should not be submitted to The Enigma, since they have been done before and should not be repeated. However, composers find them useful to see if their anagrams have been found before by others.

While not an anagram dictionary, Words at Play by Rom Dos (O.V. Michaelsen) (Sterling Publishing, 1997) also includes a large number of anagrams -- some well-known, some more obscure -- that serve as another source for checking one’s creations.

 Word Lists

Word lists in a great variety of formats have been produced over the years. A straight alphabetical listing of words sorted by length can be found in Chambers Words (W & R Chambers, 1976). This work includes words up to 20 letters and a few even longer. The Longman Crossword Key, by Evelyn Marshall (Longman, 1982), sorts words of lengths three to 15 letters by the letter in each position. For example, all 10-letter words with the seventh letter G are listed together. Each of these words is also listed in nine other places in the book-once for each of the other letters in the word.

Reverse dictionaries or word lists are particularly useful to NPL solvers. Walker’s Rhyming Dictionary, by J. Walker (Dutton, 1936) is not of great use as a rhyming dictionary, but it lists more than 50,000 words in reverse alphabetical order (that is, A, BAA, and CAABA are the first three words listed). An edition with a supplement by Michael Freeman was published in 1983 by Routledge & Kegan Paul. Chambers Back-Words for Crosswords, by J. C. P. Schwarz (W & R Chambers, 1986) sorts words from 4 to 15 letters in length in reverse alphabetical order. Electronic lists of words from NI2 and other sources are widely available, including those at the NPL Web site.

 Rhyming Dictionaries

Composers of puzzles in verse should have a good rhyming dictionary in their libraries. Two possibilities are The Complete Rhyming Dictionary Revised, edited by Clement Wood and revised by Ronald J. Bogus (Doubleday, 1991); and Words to Rhyme With, by Willard Espy (Macmillan Press, 1986). In addition to an extensive rhyming dictionary, Wood includes eight chapters on techniques of versification, meter, and rhyme. Along with a smaller section on versification, Espy has a larger number of rhyming words, but it is harder to use. The New Comprehensive American Rhyming Dictionary, by Sue Young (Avon, 1991), includes many modern words, phrases, and colloquialisms, along with “the latest in slang, idioms and buzz words.” Rhyming dictionaries typically include words that don’t rhyme according to MW phonetics (or NPL guidelines), so composers should use all such works with caution.

 Books on Cryptograms

For help in solving cryptograms, all of the following are recommended: Cryptanalysis, by Helen Fouche Gaines (Dover Publications, 1956); Cryptanalysis of the Simple Substitution Cipher, with Word Divisions Using Nonpattern Word Lists, by Wayne G. Barker (Aegean Park Press, 1975); Solving Simple Substitution Ciphers, by Frances A. Harris (American Cryptogram Association, 1959); and 3 Ways to Solve Cryptograms, by H. C. Wiltbank, et al. (American Cryptogram Association, 1963). The last two publications listed are available from the ACA; ordering information can be obtained from RagyR (R. Gary Rasmussen, ACA Treasurer, P.O. Box 1013, Londonderry, NH 03053-1013, e-mail RagyR at aol dot com).


Periodicals likely to be of interest to the Krewe include: The Cryptogram, published bimonthly by the American Cryptogram Association (write RagyR -- address above -- for a minisample and subscription information); Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics, published quarterly by Faro (Faith and Ross Eckler); Crossword, with cryptic discussions and very hard British cryptics, published by Brym (Brian Head); Graffiti on the Sphinx, an Enigma fanzine published monthly by Treesong (Philip M. Cohen); and Games and Games World of Puzzles, both published bimonthly and available on newsstands.

 Electronic Tools

Computer technology has radically changed puzzle creating and solving, primarily by making it easier to find information. CD-ROM and Internet sources have rapidly gained an important place in the Krewemember’s arsenal of references.

Merriam-Webster’s CD-ROM versions of 11C and NI3 (often referred to as MWED and eNI3, respectively) are among the most useful solving tools the computer-enabled Krewe can have. They allow searching with “wild cards” (using a question mark to represent an unknown letter, or an asterisk for an indefinite number of unknown letters), but beyond that, they also provide the ability to search for transposals (called “jumbles”), letter banks, homophones, and rhymes. Also, you can search using words from the definition. Merriam-Webster also has a version of 10C online; however, it has only a fraction of the search functions of the CD-ROM version.

The Internet has spawned a wide array of puzzle-solving tools. Foremost for Krewefolk are the base-finding (and -solving) tools created by Lucifer (Mike Christie) and available on the NPL Web site. These tools allow you to search a large collection of word lists, including NI2, 9C, Roget’s, and many others. Plex (Judith Underwood) created a list of useful Internet links for solving Enigma puzzles.

Another key Internet tool is a good search engine. While everyone has a personal favorite, many Krewe swear by Google.

For those with Palm, Handspring Visors, and other Palm-based handhelds, Kray (Kiran Kedlaya) has created a program called Wordfinder that will search word lists (currently NI2 and NI2 phrases) for matches, letter banks, transposals, transadditions and transdeletions, and letter changes. It can handle “wild card” searches. The current version is available free for download. Kray appreciates feed-back on the program.

The Franklin Crosswords Puzzle Solver, created by Franklin Electronic Publishers, is a very useful tool. The Franklin is a small electronic device, 2.5 by 4 inches and about one-quarter-inch thick, with a QWERTY keyboard. It contains over a quarter of a million words and phrases from Merriam-Webster references. The vocabulary can be searched with “wild cards”; transposals are just as easy to search for. The Franklin can handle words and phrases of up to 10 letters in length (up to 15 unreliably, with various tricks), and at a price of under $50 is well worth the money. More information on Franklin’s line of electronic dictionaries and solving tools is here.

 Other References

In addition to the specialized works listed, solvers make good use of almanacs, geographical and biographical dictionaries, and movie and television guides and directories. Many other references (in and out of print) can be found on the shelves of solvers’ libraries.

Many of these references are out of print or available only from the United Kingdom. NI2 has been out of print the longest; Treesong serves as a go-between for members who want NI2 and members who have found inexpensive copies. (In general, if you see an NI2 in decent condition for $25 or less, you should snap it up; if you don’t want it, other NPLers certainly will. The same goes for Baus.) He can also provide this service for other references. eBay,, and (a used-book search service) have proved useful to many Krewe for finding out-of-print references.

This page was last updated on Thursday, June 18, 2015. /webmaster