Questions and Answers



How do I switch to a different day's puzzle?

To choose a puzzle, click on the selector button above the letter lay-out:

Puzzle selector

There are new Standard, Challenge, 10 Letter and 7-by-many puzzles every day. You can go back to any of the puzzles from the past week.

Do I have to register before I can play?

No, you don't. You can play anonymously, or give yourself a name by simply typing it into the box labelled "Your name". Of course you won't be able to use a name if somebody else has registered using that name.

But if you register your player name, you'll be able to play the same puzzle on different computers. And some unregistered players have had trouble retrieving their words even on the same computer. Also, an unregistered player has no guarantee that someone else won't start using their name.

Why do I have to give my email address to register?

It allows a quick, automatic way of dealing with forgotten passwords: the player can select a new password, and activate it via an email link.

The email address you supply will be used only for administrative messages related to your registration as a player. Emails containing other information will only be sent to people who have already sent messages to us. If we ever decide to go in for a newsletter or promotional emails, we will create an opt-in system. We certainly won't sell or trade your email address to anyone else.

Can I be signed in automatically every time I come to the site?

Yes, you can. When you are signed in with your user name and password, click on the "Details" button just above the scoreboard, re-enter your password, as "Current password", and set the checkbox labeled "Sign in automatically on this computer", then click on the OK button.

This relies on cookies, and each browser keeps its own cookies, so if you use different devices or different browsers to play Chihuahua, you will need to set it up in each of them.

What do the stars and other symbols on the scoreboard mean?

A star Star graphic next to a player's name means they've found a word using all the letters. If you find two words using all the letters (which is possible sometimes), you'll get two stars. And so on ...

The rosette appears when someone has found all the common (that is, not rare) words in a puzzle. The trophy appears when a player has found absolutely all the possible words, common and rare.

The letters won't move when I click them. What's going on?

Make sure you're not looking at a puzzle whose solution you have looked at. If you are, there will be a "Puzzle closed - solution viewed" message at the top of the word panel.

Why aren't my words going on the scoreboard?

Once a new day's puzzles appear, the scoreboards for the previous day's puzzles are closed to new words. You can keep playing if you wish, but your words won't be saved or scored.

What's the difference between "Standard" and "Challenge"?

These are two kinds of 9-letter Chihuahua puzzle that appear every day:

  • The Standard puzzle has the solution available when you're ready. (But once you've looked at the solution, you can't play any more words.)
  • The Challenge puzzle does not provide the solution until the next day, and hit rates are shown on the scoreboard. This puzzle is also slightly more difficult on the average than the Standard puzzle.

What is the "hit rate"?

The hit rate is the percentage of words attempted that were successful. It is displayed at the top of the panel showing the words you have found. And in the Challenge puzzle, every player's hit rate is shown on the scoreboard.

What time does each day's puzzle appear?

When you have a puzzle open you can see when it will close, at the bottom of the playing area. If the puzzle is a daily one, this is also when the next day's puzzle will be available.

Puzzle closing message

The four kinds of daily puzzle have different starting times. There's a new daily Standard puzzle at midnight, GMT, each day. The Challenge puzzle starts 8 hours earlier, at 4 pm GMT. The 7-by-many puzzle starts 4 hours after the Standard, at 4 am GMT. The 10 Letter puzzle starts 8 hours after the Standard, at 8 am GMT.

On the tabs across the top of the puzzle area, the daily puzzle types show the times (going by your computer's clock) when each of the puzzle types switches over each day.

Start times on puzzle tabs

To see how long it will be before any of the current daily puzzles closes, move your mouse pointer over the start time shown for that puzzle.

GMT is not affected by daylight savings, so if the clocks in your area go back or forward one hour because of daylight savings, the new puzzle times will shift by an hour.


What words are permitted?

The rules are similar to those in most word games, except that each word must be at least four letters in length (or five letters in a 7-by-many puzzle), and any word made by adding "S" to the end of another word is not permitted. Here are the rules in more detail.

What words can't you use?

  • words normally written with a capital letter
  • words normally written with a punctuation mark
  • foreign language words (often printed in italics in a dictionary)
  • plurals and verb forms made by adding S to the end of a word (unless the puzzle was created under the Your Puzzles tab with the option that allows all such words)

What words can you use?

  • British and American words and spelling
  • many words regarded as dialect or specific to a particular country or region
  • foreign words that have been adopted by the English language
  • plurals and verb forms that are not simply "s" added to the end of the base word - e.g. "babies", "boxes"
  • words that originated as abbreviations if they are now written in lower-case letters with no punctuation marks — for example, "indie", "scuba"
  • slang and colloquial words

WARNING: By default, there is no expurgation of words that might be considered offensive by some players (obscenities and offensive epithets). However, you can make your own puzzles under the Your Puzzles tab, where there is an option to exclude many such words.

The targets for Good, Better and Best are calculated from a word list compiled especially for the games and puzzles at This list, known as the "common" words, is intended to be comprehensive enough to include all eligible words that would be known by the average well-read word game player. This common list is the source of the words shown in red when you press the Solution button.

However, the words you try are judged against a much bigger list, based on YAWL (Yet Another Word List), compiled and placed in the public domain by Mendel Cooper. The words from YAWL (plus some extra words suggested by Chihuahua players) are also the basis for the Maven and Cham target levels. This is a very comprehensive list, including a lot of rather obscure and dated words that are not in the "common" word list, which is why we call them "rare" words. This means that you can use almost any English word you can think of that satisfies the above rules. To see all the words you could have made, click on the "Show all?" box at the top of the word list.

New words are added to the list from time to time, often as a result of suggestions from players. The latest additions are listed on the Word List Suggestions page. You can suggest additional words (that meet the above criteria) by email, or by posting a message at the Lexigame Forum.

Does the puzzle include swear words?

Absolutely! A word that is part of the English language is not excluded from Chihuahua puzzles just because it refers to a subject matter that might be taboo in some circles, or because it can be used in an offensive or derogatory way. Our view is that no word is offensive when played in a puzzle, because it is not being used to convey a meaning.

However, the Your Puzzles tab gives you the option of playing puzzles that are free from swear words and epithets. After clicking Your Puzzles, click the New... button and select the "Exclude words that may offend" option.

Why are some words in italics?

The words in italics are those that are classed in the word list as relatively rare. Actually, about two thirds of the words recognised in Chihuahua are in this category - which explains why a few people can get such very high scores.

The target levels of Good, Better and Best are based on the number of words that can be made from the "common" list - i.e. not including the rarer words. There's a note above your words telling you how many of these more common words you still haven't found.

You can control whether the displayed scores include the rare words by clicking the "Rare" button at the top of the scoreboard. With this option off, only the more common words are counted in the scores displayed.

And when you look at the solution to a puzzle, the words in red, that you didn't get, are only the more common words, unless you click on the "Show all?" box, which causes the rarer words to be shown as well, in italics.

What do you mean by "common" and "rare" words?

The terms are relative - the words classed as "common" are meant to be more widely known and used than those classed as "rare". The aim is that a reasonably well-read English-speaking person will be likely to have encountered all of our "common" words at some time. There are indicators to show you how many of these common words you've found, and how many still haven't been found.

But the list relies on subjective judgement, so don't get angry if it includes some words you've never seen. You'll know them next time, right? (If you have any complaints or suggestions about the word lists, send them in, or post a message on the forum.)

Are proper nouns allowed?

Basically, no. The actual rule Chihuahua follows is that you can't use a word normally written with a capital letter.

Some words that are accepted may seem to violate this rule. In these cases, there is usually a secondary meaning to the word - often quite rare. So "Levant" for example, meaning "the countries bordering on the Eastern Mediterranean" would not be permitted, but "levant" meaning "to run away from a debt" is allowed. Other words you may have noticed are "sean", also spelled "seine", a large fishing net, and "niger", a plant used for oil.

The reason why proper names are excluded from most word games has been stated by game expert David Parlett: "The motive of word-gamers in rejecting names is that acquaintance with them is a test of general knowledge, whereas word games are intended to be a test of literacy." (When is a word not a word?) This whole essay is very interesting, and gives some idea of the complexities involved. Read this and think about the issues it raises before writing in to say, "Why don't you just allow all real words and reject all the other rubbish?"

Like Scrabble and other word games, we use capitalisation as a reasonably unambiguous rule for identifying proper nouns, even though it produces some questionable results. For example, if "winter" is allowed, why not "April"? And while "America" is the name of a singular entity, there are many Americans, and "American" is also an adjective, applicable to many things, so why is it not allowed? (In France it seems that "avril" and "americain" are allowed in Scrabble, since French does not give a capital letter to months or nationalities.) Incidentally, we exclude any word with a capital letter anywhere, not just at the start - so no "iPod".

Even if we wanted to provide a game that allowed names to be used, there would be a daunting practical problem of compiling a suitable list. If we're going to allow "America", we should surely allow all continents and countries. And surely also we should allow cities, states, provinces and counties. And suburbs? ...towns and villages of any size? And what about people's names? If we allow "Andrew", why not "Algernon" and, for that matter, "Anatu"? I can just imagine getting emails saying, "The people down the street named their baby Ruola - why can't I use that?" Or, "When I was a kid there was a brand of ice cream called Frinix..."

Why can't I use plurals?

That's a good question! For the time being, Chihuahua is, by default, following the same rules as a lot of the word-making puzzles (often known as "Target") printed in newspapers. However, this is being kept under review, and there is now an option when creating a custom puzzle (under the Your Puzzles tab) to allow all plurals and inflections ending in S.

Under the current default rule, you cannot use a plural or verb form made by simply adding S to the end of a base word. Some words ending in S are permitted. For example, ODDS, NEWS, IDES, HERS, DOES. Some of these words are not plurals or verbs at all, or do not have a base form without the S. There has been a lot of heated discussion about some of these cases (especially PANTS) on the Words board of the Lexigame Forum. Feel free to browse through that discussion (try searching on "plural") to get a better understanding of why words are allowed or disallowed.

But what is the idea behind this exclusion of most plurals?

When the puzzle includes an S, it would be tedious to add it to most of the words you find, so it seems sensible to exclude those words - and, of course, calculate the word targets accordingly. This is presumably the thinking behind the rule followed by the newspaper puzzles, of disallowing any inflected form made by adding an S to a base word. However it seems illogical not to extend this rule to exclude words made by adding ES, such as "dishes", or by changing Y to IES, as in "denies". And, for that matter, what about regular verb tenses ending in ED or ING? Also, why not allow a four-letter plural when the singular word is excluded because it is too short?

In David Parlett's The Penguin Book of Word Games, he suggests that games of this type should simply exclude variants with different grammatical endings. So, assuming the letters were available, you could have any one of "help", "helps", "helped" or "helping", but not more than one of them. This approach might be introduced in a future release of Chihuahua. There would still be room for debate about how widely this approach should be applied - should both "help" and "helper" be allowed? "Warm" and "warmest"?

What do you think? Your opinions can help to shape the future of Chihuahua!


Why doesn't anyone play my puzzle?

When you make a puzzle, it starts out invisible to other players. If you want everybody to be able to see it listed when they click the Open... button, you should "publish" your puzzle. You have to be a registered player to do this. If you are registered, you should see a Publish button above the puzzle letters. Click this and you will see some options for how widely to show your puzzle.

If you have published your puzzle, and there still aren't any other players, maybe you should try giving your puzzles more intriguing descriptions. You can also recruit players directly from among your friends, by sending them a puzzle's six-character code, and inviting them to plug it in on the Your Puzzles page.

Why do some puzzles have no comment board?

The Chinwag comment board is a feature of the daily puzzles (where only registered players can see the comments) and some player-made puzzles (under the Your Puzzles tab). There is no comment board in random puzzles (which are normally played by only one person).

Whether a puzzle under the Your Puzzles tab has Chinwag is determined at the time the puzzle is created. The maker of the puzzle decides whether to include this option.

Why can't I switch the scoreboard to include rare words?

Under the Your Puzzles tab, the maker of each puzzle has decided whether rare words will be included in the word totals. If rare words are not included, nobody's rare words can be seen on the scoreboard. In these puzzles, the sign at the top of the scoreboard doesn't do anything if you click it - it's there for information only. However, the totals above your words still let you know how many rare words you have found - for example, "count = 20 plus 3 rare" means you found 20 common words and 3 rare words.

What does the flashing green diamond mean?

On the scoreboard, a flashing spot Flashing green indicator in front of a player's name means that player has been playing this puzzle in the last few minutes. In the menu of puzzles seen when the Open... button is clicked, these flashing dots show how many people have been playing a puzzle recently.


The site isn't working properly. What can I do?

If the puzzle won't load completely, or the scoreboard isn't being updated, there are a number of things you can try that might correct the problem.

First, try re-loading the Web page, using the Refresh / Reload button on your browser's address bar. It probably looks something like this Typical browser reload button. Many browsers also let you perform a more thorough reload by pressing the F5 key while holding down the Ctrl key.

If you are still having problems, there are two yellow buttons towards the bottom right of the puzzle area: Reset and alternate site buttons. If you can see these buttons on the puzzle page, try clicking on "Reset". (This is designed to clear out some locally stored data that may have become mis-aligned with the records on the Web server.)

If all else fails, try clicking on "Alt. site". This will take you to a copy of the site at a different address. If the "Alt. site" button is not visible, you can still go to the alternate site. Just click on whichever one of these links doesn't match the beginning of the current Web page:

If you're still having problems, please send an email to giving details of what happens when you try to load the site, when you last tried, and the name you play under.

What do I need on my computer to play Chihuahua?

Just a pretty ordinary computer, tablet or phone with a pretty ordinary Web Browser should do the trick!

Do I need to allow JavaScript?

Certainly! Chihuahua is a JavaScript game. If JavaScript is not available on your computer, you will see a "Sorry" message near the top of the main Chihuahua page. The reason for this may be that JavaScript is disabled in your Browser options. (Check out "Internet Options" or "Options" in the Tools menu.)

Do I need to allow cookies?

No. If cookies are accepted on your computer, Chihuahua will create cookies to store some player identification codes, but this is not needed to play the puzzle.

The only effects you might notice if cookies are barred is that you may have to type your name and password to sign in every time you come to the Chihuahua web site, or - if you haven't registered your player name and password - you will have to type your name each time for the scoreboard and you won't be able to come back to a puzzle you started in a previous session.

Do I need the Flash player?

No, you don't need to have the Flash player software to be able to play Chihuahua.

However, if you turn on the sound option, and the Flash player is installed, Chihuahua may try to use Flash to play its sound effects. Hence, if you don't have Flash, pressing the Sound button may result in a window offering to install the "Adobe Flash Player". You can say No to this if you wish and Chihuahua will still work, but there will be no sound effects.


What is a maven?

In Chihuahua, a Maven is a player who has reached the second-highest level of success in a puzzle, a level midway between Best and Cham.

In the English language, maven is a word derived from Hebrew via Yiddish, meaning an expert or connoisseur. The term has come to be used frequently in the phrases "word maven" and "language maven", denoting someone expert about matters linguistic. This usage may have been originated by William Safire, whose "On Language" column gave rise to several books, including Language Maven Strikes Again (1990) and Quoth the Maven (1993).

Maven is also the name of one of the world's most famous pieces of word game software, Brian Sheppard's Scrabble-playing program.

What is a cham?

In Chihuahua, a Cham is a player who has reached the highest level of success in a puzzle, finding approximately 90% of the possible words, a level that is likely to be achieved extremely rarely, even by the best of players.

In the English language, cham (pronounced cam) meant originally the same as khan, that is, a powerful leader. It has come to be used (admittedly not very often) in a figurative sense to mean an autocrat or dominant critic. In particular, the phrase "the great Cham" is usually a reference to Samuel Johnson, from Smollet's "That great Cham of literature, Samuel Johnson". Dr Johnson of course was the compiler of the first great English dictionary.

Why is the puzzle called "Chihuahua"?

The following screen image of a hypothetical puzzle may give you a hint.

hypothetical screen shot

CHIHUAHUA is one nine-letter word that will never appear as the big word in a puzzle, because there are hardly any other words that can be made with its letters.