I made Middles, a daily word game.

A while ago, I worked a company whose initials were TS. This led to some fun times: Accounts that started with TS were assumed to be system accounts, so when a human named Tsutomo (or something) joined the company, his account got treated weirdly. IIRC we renamed his account rather than changing the system.

I was working on version control, and we wanted to find a name for the new system, so I suggested “nuTShell”, being the best word I could find that contains the letters “ts” in the middle. My team lead immediately replied, “O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space.” Which is exactly what I was tihnking. But nobody else seemed to appreciate the Shakespeare, so we went with a different name.

And then there’s this Tumblr post. (It will probably get lost, so for future reference, it reads: “List of words containing “meow”: meow, meowed, meowing, meows, homeowner”). The original version of that Tumblr post (since deleted) is from 2016; I don’t remember when I saw it. But it’s been living in my head ever since, and eventually, I realized that there was a game there.

The game works like this: I give you the middle of a word, and you try to guess the rest, one letter at a time. Every time you guess wrong, you lose a point. At zero points, you lose. The secret word is chosen so that its middle is unique among commonly-known words (ignoring plural nouns and singular verbs). For instance, the middle OBC appears in the common word BOBCAT and no other common singular word (it also appears in the uncommon word MOBCAP, a kind of bonnet that nobody has heard of).

There are a lot of words that have unique middles that nonetheless are bad candidates. DUSTRIO is bad because it’s obviously INDUSTRIOUS. WJ is bad because it’s NSFW. INGEM is bad because while INFRINGEMENT is the more common word, IMPINGEMENT is common enough that some players will know it. For this determination, I used a combination of Brysbaert, M., et al and my own personal judgement (they think impingement is non-prevalent, but I think it’s prevalent, possibly wrongly, because it’s something I’ve experienced). Also, Brysbaert is lemmatized, which makes life harder.

But I have about 4,000 words (I still might remove some when I take another look), which is over a decade of game before repating. Not quite Wordle, but not bad.

Give it a try.

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