finding the statistically best Hangman word

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LSK
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finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby LSK » Sun May 10, 2009 10:28 pm UTC

So, a friend and I were talking about it, and we decided that a "good" hangman word had to have the following two qualities:

1) It has at least a few uncommon letters in it.

2) There are several words of the same length that have only one or two letters different from it.

What words, statistically, would meet these criterion?

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby bigglesworth » Sun May 10, 2009 10:32 pm UTC

Using the letter y also helps.

pyrrhic, crypt, cryptic &c.
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby headprogrammingczar » Sun May 10, 2009 10:46 pm UTC

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Thraktor » Sun May 10, 2009 11:12 pm UTC

I think, first off, you're going to have to deduce the optimal hangman guessing strategy, then find a word that holds up well against said strategy. Presumably an optimal strategy initially guesses common letters like e, n, s, and soforth, so avoid them (as bigglesworth points out, y is good, as you can get away without vowels). If you're using the Concise Oxford Dictionary as the source of valid words, then this page has the frequency of letters in them, so I'd image that any 'optimal' word would stay away from the higher-frequency letters.

Furthermore, just to satisfy the game-theorist in me, is the person who's doing the guessing aware that we're attempting to play optimally? Or is their strategy independent of ours?

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Cryopyre » Mon May 11, 2009 12:31 am UTC

Quixotic, makes a good scrabble word too.
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Maseiken » Mon May 11, 2009 1:32 am UTC

Myxlpltx.


Although I suppse the x's would give it away...
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Numquam » Mon May 11, 2009 2:20 am UTC

lynx
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby thewalnutistheword » Mon May 11, 2009 2:27 am UTC

I've never played hangman with english words, but words like "pyrrhic" seem really challenging. It's a shame there's no such thing in portuguese, the most challenging words we can use are long words with simple letters.

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Vieto » Mon May 11, 2009 3:11 am UTC

I'm sure Chinese hangman would be impossible.

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Upsilon » Mon May 11, 2009 3:46 am UTC

Yggdrasil, but I'm not sure if it counts as a word.
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby headprogrammingczar » Mon May 11, 2009 1:35 pm UTC

Cliche (be an asshole and make them guess it with the name of the punctuation above the second 'e').
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby SecondTalon » Mon May 11, 2009 2:23 pm UTC

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby ckjy » Mon May 11, 2009 4:16 pm UTC

EXPO,WHICH and WHACK are remarkably good words. I find they are rarely guessed.

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby zed0 » Mon May 11, 2009 4:48 pm UTC

I've always liked "rhythm" myself.

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby FACM » Mon May 11, 2009 11:01 pm UTC

Oddly enough, shorter words tend to do better in hangman. If a word gets too long, it starts having too many possible valid choices in an answer. Short words with uncommon letters are probably the best way to go.

If you want to run stats on it, you'll probably want some information on which letters are guessed most often [which I have no idea where you'd find those] along with stats on letter frequency [which is pretty easy to find].

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Gears » Tue May 12, 2009 12:07 am UTC

I use "wax" for hangman most times.
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby headprogrammingczar » Tue May 12, 2009 1:31 pm UTC

Jesus christ, that word is unguessable. I like it.
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Kizyr » Tue May 12, 2009 2:13 pm UTC

I totally stumped someone with XEROX before. Usually they manage the _ERO_ and can't figure out the first/last letter (as X is one of the last things people guess). KF
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby EdgarJPublius » Tue May 12, 2009 6:40 pm UTC

Pygmy, pygmies, rhythm and rhythms usually work well (pluralizing is a good way to add length, makes a word look more intimidating without making it any easier to guess)
Most of the people I know pretty much use one of these four any time a hangman game gets started.

Pyrrhic is a good one though, I'll have to use it next time, everybody'll go for the obvious 'pygmies' :P
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby bigglesworth » Tue May 12, 2009 6:50 pm UTC

People who don't know the word get upset when they guess "r" :D
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Armadillo Al » Tue May 12, 2009 10:52 pm UTC

headprogrammingczar wrote:Jesus christ, that word is unguessable. I like it.


O rly?
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Alasseo » Wed May 13, 2009 6:02 am UTC

yak is good too.
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby BoomFrog » Wed May 13, 2009 9:05 am UTC

Meteorswarm wrote:
Vieto wrote:I'm sure Chinese hangman would be impossible.


Well, conceivably you could do it with any of the many methods they use to organize words in a dictionary, but I doubt it would be very much fun outside of a dull exercise.


You could do it with the words written in Pinyin. I think it would be exactly as entertaining as English hangman.
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby bigglesworth » Wed May 13, 2009 10:06 am UTC

Traditional Chinese hangman: however many chances to choose the correct character out of 50,000. :D
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby TauCeti » Wed May 13, 2009 6:23 pm UTC

Meteorswarm wrote:
Upsilon wrote:Yggdrasil, but I'm not sure if it counts as a word.


It's a proper name, so only if those are allowed in your rules. And I wouldn't allow them - proper names are waaay too funky. What if you chose the symbol at one point the name of the name of Prince? Good luck guessing that one.


We once played a game of hangman for phrases where any character, regardless of origin, was valid. One such game was --- ------ -------- ----- -- -. A friend walked into the room, was told what we were playing, looked at the board, and immediately guessed the Prince symbol, as the first guess in the game. The guy who wrote the puzzle started swearing after that, since the last “-” was the Prince symbol.

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Esquilax » Thu May 14, 2009 3:08 am UTC

cwm or crwth
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Tiax » Sun May 24, 2009 4:48 am UTC

I find 'juju' works well. 'u' is often the last vowel guessed, and most people just stare blankly when they see the _u_u.

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby el_loco_avs » Tue May 26, 2009 12:49 pm UTC

Tiax wrote:I find 'juju' works well. 'u' is often the last vowel guessed, and most people just stare blankly when they see the _u_u.


I'd guess tutu or mumu first. Lulu and Dudu are names of people. Juju is just mean :mrgreen:
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Xaddak » Tue May 26, 2009 3:50 pm UTC

Armadillo Al wrote:
headprogrammingczar wrote:Jesus christ, that word is unguessable. I like it.


O rly?


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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby phider2 » Tue May 26, 2009 11:02 pm UTC

I always thought about using the lesser-known siblings of antidisestablishmentarianism (such as antidisestablishmentarian and antiestablishmentarianism), to see what people's reactions were. I don't think they'd work well though, as they only contain common letters, to the point of easily being able to just guess one letter at a time. I think I'd have to agree with the "short word with uncommon letters" idea.

Also, my spanish teacher once recommended diphthong, which while good, probably can't stand up to "Quixotic."

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Xaddak » Wed May 27, 2009 1:36 am UTC

I saw a few people using phrases, so how about "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog"? I think it would only work with crowds that aren't too geeky, though, because Word used to use that phrase to show fonts, if you went into the Font window itself. It still might, actually, I'm not sure.
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Soralin » Wed May 27, 2009 11:09 am UTC

Xaddak wrote:I saw a few people using phrases, so how about "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog"? I think it would only work with crowds that aren't too geeky, though, because Word used to use that phrase to show fonts, if you went into the Font window itself. It still might, actually, I'm not sure.

It wouldn't work with anyone, the reason that phrase is commonly used is because it contains every letter, there couldn't be any incorrect guesses. :) (although I think that should be "jumps" since as you have it there it's missing the 's')

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Blatm » Wed May 27, 2009 12:18 pm UTC

The spirit of choosing words for hangman is of course to chose words that are not able to be solved with only a few lucky guesses, such as "wax" or "jazz", which is essentially solved if either w or x, or either j or z respectively is ever guessed, or "cwm" which is obvious after the guesser finds out that there are no vowels, but also not so long as to either contain too many letters, so that any guess is likely to be found, as is the case with "Cwm fjord bank glyphs vext quiz" (though that's perhaps a bit extreme of an example), or too contain too many repetitions of letters such as "assass _ _ a _ _". Using this criteria, "pyrrhic" would be a good word (and worked very well when I tried it). Part of what makes them good is that they contain a few uncommon letters, which is an extension of the first criteria, but don't do so in an obvious way. I'd also like to add "xanthic" as another good word. It's a better choice than the similar "xanthous", because if either o or u are guessed, which they probably will be, the -ous ending is found easily, whereas there are be several endings of the form - i _.

A trick I find useful when coming up with hangman words is to pick words whose pronunciations are different than what would be expected. This works because often solvers will try to sound out words from the bits they see, and will overlook odd pronunciations. At the moment, the only example I can think of is "colonel", but that's not as good as some others, because the pronunciation "co-lo-nel" of colonel is unfortunately somewhat common. Suggestions for words that are pronounced differently than they're written would be much appreciated.

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby bigglesworth » Wed May 27, 2009 12:31 pm UTC

In the UK, lieutenant is pronounced "leftenant". So there's an idea.

Long words with few vowels work, since people will waste guesses on them.
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Lagren » Wed May 27, 2009 2:22 pm UTC

I had a flash of inspiration, based on "wax."
How about "Wan"?

Once people get the "an", they're likely to waste guesses on the very large list of "An" words.
Ban, Can, Fan, LAN, Man, Nan, Pan, Ran, Tan, Van, Wan.
As they run down this list, when they come to "Wan" it won't even sound like anything, because all the other words are pronounced with hard A's while "Wan" is a long A.

Even if they make a lucky guess on the W, they then have a choice between wad, wax, was, war, way, and wan.

If they have W_N somehow, then they have win, won, and wan to pick between.

I'd say that's a pretty good hangman word. 3 letters long, hard to guess, and misleading.

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby AvalonXQ » Wed May 27, 2009 4:12 pm UTC

Hrm. Schrodinger's hangman -- an especially nasty version where the person supplying the word can continue to change the word as long as it stays consistent with all available information.
How many guesses would one need in Schrodinger's hangman to make it even possible to win the game, if the supplier has a good vocabulary? How should the supplier respond to certain guesses? Are there any other rules we need to make this game reasonable?

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby Blatm » Wed May 27, 2009 5:07 pm UTC

A very lame way to play hangman, and a way to guarantee a win at Schroedinger hangman is to chose a single letter as a your word.

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby bigglesworth » Wed May 27, 2009 5:42 pm UTC

But a single letter is a bastardly move in any hangman game.

This idea is very interesting.
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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby AvalonXQ » Wed May 27, 2009 5:44 pm UTC

How many single letters qualify as proper hangman words?

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Re: finding the statistically best Hangman word

Postby bigglesworth » Wed May 27, 2009 5:45 pm UTC

a, I, O.

That's all I think.
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