I’m terrible at crosswords. I just can’t seem to handle their particular brand of guessing words from cryptic clues. But I’m great at the kind of pattern matching found in word jumbles. Which is why I was delighted to discover that 7 Little Words introduces word finding to the crossword formula — and in a sleek minimalist package, too.
Each 7 Little Words puzzle tasks you with forming seven words from the 20 letter groupings. But not just any words; these must all match with their clue — often just a single word, but sometimes a short phrase. You’re expected to pull out your lateral thinking hat to piece together the solution. It’s enormously challenging, testing both your vocabulary and your puzzle smarts to their limits.
There’s not much standing between you and the puzzles.
You don’t have to worry about guessing wrong or running out of time. 7 Little Words can be played at whatever pace you like. And this is exactly as it should be. Games don’t always need “gamey” constraints thrust upon them; sometimes it’s enough just to create an interesting system for players to battle against. In this case, the system is composed simply of words and their associations.
As you tap letter groupings — which are usually two or three characters — they form a word. You can’t reorder them in the word, or remove individual groups. If you accidentally tap on the wrong one, you have to erase the word and form it again. This is annoying, but it’s only a minor frustration with most words consisting of just a few groups of letters.
If you’re struggling for inspiration, you can tap the Shuffle button to randomly change the arrangement of letter groups— possibly firing new neurons in your brain and offering that last push to recognition of the word you’re after. It didn’t help me at all, but perhaps your manner of thinking is more visual than mine — in which case you might find it useful.
When you really get stuck, you can tap at the bottom of the screen for a hint. Hints apply only to one word at a time, but they come in three varieties: Show the First Letter, Show the First Tile, or Show the Entire Solution. You check out all three of these, or just one of them — but once you leave the hint screen that’s it.
You can use hints as actual hints, or as a get out of jail free card.
You only get 15 free hints, too, so think carefully before you pop back into the game without the solution. After that it’ll cost $0.99 to unlock unlimited hints.
A button in the top right of the screen lets you restart a puzzle, enabling fun competition with a friend to see who can solve it faster. 7 Little Words is a fine game to play with others, even though there’s no real multiplayer component. Two heads are better than one, as the saying goes, and you’ll likely need all the help you can get.
Puzzles can be left unfinished and returned to later — you don’t have to worry about solving a certain number to unlock more. The free Sunrise pack includes 50 puzzles. I counted 40 additional packs of 50 that cost $0.99 each. A “Super Value” Skyscrapers pack contains a whopping 500 puzzles. Pairs of bonus packs get unlocked as you reach purchasing milestones (3, 7, 12, 16, and 20).
Free daily puzzles and a boatload of paid offerings add enormous longevity to 7 Little Words.
Little Words, Big Longevity
If you’re prepared to spend a bit of money on these extra puzzle packs, 7 Little Words will last you months or years. It’s as big on value as it is on challenge and entertainment.
Crossword fans can expect to enjoy the twist on the formula, while anyone else with an interest in words or language would be well advised to give it a shot. It’ll expand your vocabulary without putting you to sleep.