The Pattern Matching text box is a bit daunting at first sight, but you'll be an expert by the time you've read this page! First, here is a quick reference that we'll refer to further down the page:
If you leave the Pattern Matching text box blank or empty then it will be ignored.
The search engine will only return results that have the letters you specify in the text box in the order you've specified them. Note that the pattern string is in addition to the rack letters, ie, if your rack letters are OSWDR and you specify the pattern "O" then the results would include the word DOORS as there are now 2 "O"s.
A "?", "_" or "." indicates a character that must be replaced by a letter from the rack letters. See below for examples.
A "$" indicates the start or end of the word and consequently must only appear at the start or end of the pattern string. See below for examples
Often when you search with a lot of letters or if you have a couple of blank tiles (wildcards) there will be quite a lot of results returned - sometimes so many that the result list is truncated. The thought of looking through 300 5 letter words for the perfect one is just a big yawn - what if your Scrabble opponent just put an X on the board that you'd like to use? What if your Scrabble opponent has made available the Triple-Word-Score square just two spaces to the right of the letter K? What if you just want words that have the letter T as the 2nd letter? What if your opponent just played the word 'GRAPHICAL' just 6 spaces to the right of a TripleWordScore and you have the tiles OOOEGZ?
Using a pattern will remove unwanted words and only return relavant results! Lets start with the first example - your opponent has put an X on the board and you would like to use it to form your next word. Set the pattern to be X and only words that include the letter X will be returned. Notice how the letters from your anagram string are fitted around the letter X - if you use the default letters (OSRDW) with the English (SOWPODS) dictionary you will get 3 results back: SOX, WOX, and OX.
What if your Scrabble opponent has made available the Triple-Word-Score square just two spaces to the right of the letter K? If you set the pattern to "K??" then only words that have at least 2 letters to the right of the K will be returned. ? is called a wildcard - it represents a letter in the result word that must exist and be taken from the search string (note that you can also use an underscore '_' or a full-stop/dot/period '.' to represent a wildcard instead). So with the default search string (OSRDW) with the English (SOWPODS) dictionary the pattern K?? will return KOR, KOS, KOW (2 letters after the K), but also KOWS, and KORS (3 letters after the K). Just like the previous example pattern, X, if you don't specify further constraints then WordSolver will put as many letters around the pattern that it can - its a bit like saying to WordSolver "the result word must contain at least K?? but can contain more if you can find them!".
But what if the Triple-Word-Score square is in the corner and we only want result words that have precisely 2 letters after the K - how do we do that? Simple! We tell WordSolver where the end of the word is, and we do that with the $ character. $ denotes the start or the end of the word - try to use it somewhere else and you'll get an error. So for our example you should set the pattern to be K??$ and that will return KOR, KOS & KOW but it would not give the results KOWS or KORS as the word end marker appears where the S is on both letters. In fact if you set the search string (your rack) to OSRDW? then you'll find that WordSolver will return WORKED too - notice that it hasn't affected what precedes the pattern. If however you only want 2 letters before the K and 2 letters afterwards then set the pattern to $??K??$ which will return ROKES and ROKED but not WORKED.
Of course, you can specify as many letters as you wish: $??KE?$ is valid, or $?R?KE? is valid, etc..!
Perhaps you just want words beginning with the letter T: $T is the pattern for that!
Perhaps you just want at least 4-letter words beginning with the letter T: $T??? is the pattern for that!
Perhaps you just want exactly 4-letter words beginning with the letter T: $T???$ is the pattern for that!
If you just want words ending with the letter T: T$ is the pattern... you get the idea I hope.
So, finally, what if your opponent did just play the word 'GRAPHICAL' just 6 spaces to the right of a Triple-Word-Score and you have the tiles OOOEGZ? Then your pattern is 'GRAPHICAL' and the longest result should be ZOOGEOGRAPHICAL (the last word in the dictionary!). This shows that pattern matching can be used to expand a current word on the board - often much shorter words of course - but they can be good scoring opportunities too. This particular example is hardly likely, but we can all dream!
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