Word Spark

I downloaded Word Spark to my Fire tablet on March 19. (It’s also available for iOS and Android devices.) There are 600 puzzles in all, grouped in 30 packs of 20 puzzles each. Working at the rate of about 4 puzzles a day, I completed the 600th puzzle today.* That puts me among the 0.02 percent of Word Spark users who have completed the entire set.

This is a game for you if you have a good vocabulary (though arcane words are avoided), are good at pattern recognition, and are tenacious. That last condition is the crucial one. It separates the doers (conservatives) from the theoreticians (leftists).

The puzzles consist of letters arranged in squares, beginning with 4 x 4 squares and going up to 7 x 7 squares. Here’s 6 x 6 puzzle:

Here’s how to play the game:

1. Trace contiguous letters to form words. There are many possible words, but only a specific set of correct ones for each puzzle. Almost all of the words are singular common nouns and adjectives. There are many words that can also be used as verbs (e.g., park, scratch, walk). Rarely is there a word that is used only as a verb; proper nouns are equally rare; and adverbs, conjunctions, and prepositions aren’t used at all (as far as I can recall). You will save a lot of time by confining yourself to singular common nouns and adjectives. Don’t bother with plurals, they aren’t used.

2. When a correct word is traced, the letters of the word move to the corresponding group of spaces below the array. (There are five correct words and corresponding groups of spaces in the image above.)

3. If a correct word includes letters that are below the top of the array, the letters above drop to fill the gaps left when the letters of the correct word drop to the answer spaces. This is important because…

4. To complete a puzzle it is necessary not only to find the correct words but also to trace them in the correct order. Finding a later word before an earlier one may make it impossible to find the earlier one because of the rearrangement of letters, as described above. You may be alerted of this by the counter-clockwise movement of the reload button, but you may not be alerted — the game seems to be quirky about these alerts. If you are stuck, make an ordered list of the words you’ve found (noting any gaps between them), and hit the reload button. Sometimes it’s necessary to do this several times during the course of a puzzle, especially at the end. Forming a correct word with the “wrong” letter(s) will throw everything off. (A “wrong” letter is a letter that belongs in the word but is chosen from the wrong cell in the array of letters. There’s often more than one way of tracing out a correct word, and it’s easy to chose the wrong way.)

5. If you are really stuck, use a hint. (A hint gives you the first letter of a word; you’re on your own after that.) You start out with 50 of them and gain 3 for every 20-pack that you complete. You can also gain a hint a day (until you reach the last 2 puzzles) by playing a 4 x 4 daily-exercise puzzle. (I didn’t discover this feature until I was in the next-to-last 20-pack of puzzles.) You can also buy hints, though I didn’t have to do that. You should have plenty of hints to work with if you start doing the daily-exercise puzzle when you start playing Word Spark. Beware: Using hints too frequently may cause you to lose your edge, with the result that you have to use more hints. I found that I resorted to hints more often when I started earning an extra hint a day.
__________
* Proof:

The solution to the 600th puzzle is:

ENVELOPE
LOSS
COCONUT
SHOCK
SPIDER
ORANGE
SCREEN
HARVEST

This isn’t a spoiler. If you’re sharp enough and tenacious enough to reach the 600th puzzle, you will be able to figure this out on your own.

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