While playing Words with Friends my randomly chosen opponent played “radiale” as her first word.  Since that used up all of her tiles, she received a bonus on top of all the points the word itself got, resulting in a one-move score of 53 points!  Rather than being impressed I was upset at the large deficit I would have to overcome.

To combat this I did what comes naturally:  Write an R script to find the perfect word!

Needing to combine my seven letters with one of her letters there were two routes I could take.  The first would be for each combination of my seven letters and one of hers, find all 40,320 (8!) permutations then hit dictionary.com to see if it is a real word for a total of 282,240 (8!*7) http calls.  That seemed a bit excessive and impractical so I moved on to the next idea.

So, first thing I did was pull a list of common eight-letter words. Then for each combination of my letters and one of hers (only 7 iterations) I checked if those letters (in any order) matched the letters in any of the possible words.  Once a match was found there was a check for the counts of the letters and if that passed then the word was recorded as a true match.

The algorithm took about 17 seconds to run and found me one possible word for my letters combined with one of hers:  “headrace”, for 63 points!  Perhaps I should have been able to figure that out on my own, but where would be the fun in that.  Find the code after the break.

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Jared Lander is the Chief Data Scientist of Lander Analytics a New York data science firm, Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, Organizer of the New York Open Statistical Programming meetup and the New York and Washington DC R Conferences and author of R for Everyone.