Whirly Word and 7 Little Words offer smartphone word-search fun

March 31, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
March 31, 2018

It’s time for another entry in my irregular and infrequent series of app reviews — and this time, it’s a twofer!

I have two word games on my smartphone, neither of which are Scrabble or the popular knockoff Words with Friends.

Some years ago, I downloaded Whirly Word, which challenges the user to make as may words as possible out of the six letters on offer. The letters are arrayed around a sort of dial, the center of which serves as an “enter button” when the player is finished selecting letters. A panel labeled “whirl” moves the letters into a new arrangement, which can be useful when a player feels stuck.

Unlike some word-search apps, Whirly Word lets the user put in every valid word based on the available letters — not just a select few, as is the case with Word Cookies. I’m currently on RABBIT, which makes such rather obscure words as AIT (a small island) and RAI (a type of Algerian music).

Whirly Word lets the user advance to another puzzle when she or he has entered the six-letter word or three-quarters of the possible permutations. If the user gives up before reaching either of those thresholds, the game ends. The app imposes no penalty for incorrect guesses, and there’s no limit on the number of guesses or time spent making guesses.

A screen shot of Whirly Word.

A screen shot of Whirly Word.

A progress bar at the top of the screen fills with gold to indicate the player’s progress; an indicator lights green when you’ve qualified to advance to the next level. When a player finds the final word or gives up, the app tallies the score and gives the user a chance to tap on each word to get its definition.

My only complaint about Whirly Word is the lack of variety. The free game, which I have, has a limited number of puzzles, so play becomes repetitive after a while. Developer Mighty Mighty Good Games offers a paid version, which costs $1.99 and is advertised as having more than 6,500 puzzles.

Another mobile game that I’ve enjoyed for years is 7 Little Words, a free app that Blue Ox Family Games initially released in the spring of 2011. Every puzzle in this app contains seven lines and 20 tiles. Each line provides a clue to the word being sought and lists the number of letters in the word. (They range in length from four to more than 10.) Each tile has a minimum of two and usually no more than four or five letters.

Game play involves the user selecting at least two tiles and then hitting a button labeled “Guess.” The player need not specify which word he or she is trying to pick. Selecting tiles moves them from the field of 20 to the entry field. If your guess is correct, the word appears on the proper line (replacing the number of letters) and the tiles disappear. If a guess is incorrect, the tiles are returned to their previous position among the others.

The entry button serves to shuffle the remaining tiles if no letters have been selected. As with Whirly Word, 7 Little Words has no penalty for wrong guesses and lets the user enter as many guesses over as long a period of time as she or he wants.

Unlike Whirly Word, each puzzle in 7 Little Words is self-contained. A player can abandon or re-enter an unsolved challenge at any time. Also, there’s no score.

7 Little Words is a bit like a one-dimensional crossword: The user is provided clues but doesn’t have to fit the answers together in an interlocking matrix.

A screen shot of 7 Little Words

A screen shot of 7 Little Words.

There are two versions of the app: The base version, which I have, and one called 7 Little Words Express, which appears to have debuted in January. The original app has a handful of free puzzles, while the newer one supposedly allows access to 5,000 free puzzles. Both editions allow users to purchase packs of new puzzles. Additionally, the basic 7 Little Words sells subscriptions ranging from $2 a week to $4 a week to $30 a year. Subscribing enables the user to play that month’s new pack of puzzles and a substantial back catalog.

The version of 7 Little Words that I have offers two new free puzzles each day; one of those puzzles is supported by in-app advertisements, which I’ve found to be unintrusive. I finished my stock of free puzzles long ago, but often I’ll solve one or two daily puzzles a day. Game play is fun and challenging, and the rotating content gives me a reason to keep coming back.

One playable new puzzle is posted online each day, which is a good way to try out the app.

7 Little Words has expanded into the “real” world — its puzzles have been compiled in paperback collections, and daily puzzles are showcased online and in print in a number of newspapers.

In all, 7 Little Words is a terrific app that bridges the word-search and crossword genres. If I were going to have a lot of free time with limited Internet access, such as on a long trip, I’d happily put 7 Little Words Express on my phone and make sure to download multiple packs.


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