Friday, April 8, 2011

Searching for words to fit into a crossword

While I work at Google and love what I do, I'm not oblivious to the charms of other search engines and information resources.  Wolfram Alpha is a remarkable resource that's chock full of ways to find out about science and math.  (One of my favorite Wolfram examples is to compare several equations side-by-side, a trick I hadn't known I'd need until I saw it.  Try this one out:  compare the hyperbolic secant, the hyperbolic tangent and an exponential function.  This is a great way to teach math students about different functions.)  

However, I was very surprised to learn that Alpha also has a function to help solve crossword puzzles. 

Examples work best:  

For example if you enter this query  [ w _ _ f _ a _ _ ] into Alpha, it will generate a suggestions list, with wolfband and Wolfgang as shown below.  NOTE that you have to leave spaces between the underscore characters!  
Yes, I know there are a million other crossword puzzle helpers out there, but this is the only one that can also compute hyperbolic secants!   (And, for those of you who do this with your Android phone, here's an app for that.


1 comment:

  1. currently seems to be the only provider that can also add a semantic layer/filter to the kind of wildcard lookups Dan describes. For example you could "*%3Acity&ls=a" to get all 'city' names that start with 'c'