Helpful tools for solving puzzles

Web search

Your most valuable ally is a search engine. I am biased towards, but sometimes it pays to use several different search engines.

When stuck on a puzzle with no idea how to proceed, find some uncommon words and seach for them on the web.


Most puzzles contain a hidden message. This message is often written using letters from one of the following alphabets. The trick is to find the letters.

Other common ways of extracting letters out of text are

A word W and a number N
Try the N'th letter of W. Try the N'th letter from the end.
A sequence of words
Try the first letter of each word, the last letter of each word, the K'th letter (for different values of K).
A sequence of numbers
If they are between 1 and 26, try the letters of the English alphabet (1=A, 2=B, ..., 26=Z). Otherwise, try using ASCII.


Some puzzles contain encrypted messages. Some common, simple encryption algorithms are

Most of these can be broken by using brute force or frequency analysis.

Word play

Here are some useful links for puzzles that require manipulating words and letters.

Music, movies and TV shows

If you need to listen to a song, and you have the artist's name and the song's title, there are a couple of websites that will let you do so legally. Same goes for watching snippets of movies and TV shows.

Note that both and will only let you listen to a full song once. After that, you will be limited to a fixed 30-second snippet.