Jotto is a word game where two people try to guess each other's secret
I am not sure about the copyright status of this game. There is a version
that was put out by Selchow & Righter (the Scrabble people) a while ago,
and a company named Endless
Games put out a version more recently. This leads me to believe that,
while the actual score sheets that come with the games are copyrighted,
the name Jotto and the game mechanics themselves are not. If anyone has
more information on this, please let me know.
Central Connector has rules
for many games, including Jotto. These
are the rules for the 1973 version of the Selchow & Righter game. I
learned the game from friends in high school. When we played, we didn't
keep score; we just raced to see who could get the other person's word
Jotto Puzzle of the Day
Find a new Jotto puzzle each day with an annotated solution at the Jotto Puzzle of the Day page.
If I play a game enough, I invariably try to come up with variants. Here
are some Jotto variants that I have played.
- Twisted Jotto - This is the first variant I came up with. In it, each
guess you make must be able to be the secret word given the scores from
the previous guesses. For example, if candy scored 2 and
ankle scored 1, aphid would be a legal guess, but
scant would not. After playing this for a while, I recognized that
this was getting words faster than other methods. So, the people I play
with generally stick to the rules of Twisted Jotto, even when not playing
Twisted Jotto. There are times, however, when it's advantageous to deviate
from this, as when you know 4 letters and are trying to discover the 5th.
- Count Rugen - Matt came up with this name for Jotto with six-letter
words. Count Rugen is the six-fingered man in The Princess Bride.
- JottoZendo - This variant is based on a dream I had. I see it as a
cross between Jotto and Zendo. In
JottoZendo, you pick a secret word, but you also pick a secret rule. The
rule is of the form "Score x (some letter in the secret word) only if y
(any letter, not necessarily one in the secret word) is also in the word."
So, if the secret word were cable and the secret rule were "Score e
only if t", then laces would score 3 (instead of 4 as in normal
Jotto), but table would score 4. I have only played this against a
program I wrote. In it, I restricted the "enabler" letter to the 13 most
common letters of the alphabet. Variations on this could include allowing
other letters to be the "enabler" and allowing other types of rules
besides "Score x only if y."
- X-Jotto - Debby came up with the idea for this Jotto variant. The
secret word is of an unknown length, from 3 to 8 letters. This is a lot
more interesting, as it allows for more variety in words to guess and
provides a lot of challenge for people seeking more complexity than normal
I have an SSH-telnetable version of Jotto that I programmed in Perl. SSH
over to jmac.org with the username jotto and the password playjotto.
I now also have an email version of Jotto that I programmed in Perl. Just
send an email to email@example.com to
get a game started.
Let me know if you have any comments or
suggestions for improvements on either game.
When I played this in high school, I started making a list in my notebook
of as many five-letter words I could think of. I'm pretty sure I had
delusions of making a computer program to play Jotto. I would just sit
down and write five-letter words in my list. Then I would go around and
ask people to give me a five-letter word. I was pretty good about
remembering which ones I already had. I went through the list after I had
collected a bunch, and I only found a few duplicate words. My list was
somewhere around 1300 words.
For the computer game, I started with a list
from a friend that was a pared-down version of /usr/dict/words, gone
through manually with words taken out that he thought were too uncommon or
jargony. This list is 3252 words. It is currently what I use for the easy
dictionary in my Perl Jotto game. I then added in more words from various
sources, and I've got a dictionary that is 5886 words, which I use for my
hard dictionary in my Perl Jotto game. I found a comprehensive Scrabble
word list, and I'm going to start using that at some point. I want to
hand-check to make sure the words I have that it doesn't are actually
words, though, since I know that some of the words I have aren't good
(like ascii). The Scrabble word list is 12024 words.
Sometime later, I have integrated the Scrabble word list. words.5 is 12386 words. words.5.easy is 4014 words.
words.5.easy represents some of my own work, but it's also based on the
work of others, so I'm not claiming any special ownership of it. Feel free
to use these for playing Jotto or anything else.
I made a stupid
little script to get random words from my dictionary.
Spreading the Meme
Sometime in late 2001, I started playing Jotto with people over email.
I've played regular and semi-regular email games with at least eight
different people, and I know those people have played email games with
other people. I introduced some people to the game for the first time, and
others were reintroduced to it. It feels good to be the cause of a meme
spreading. I felt the same way with Boggle, getting it to be a popular
game in my various social circles.
Return to Kevin's aq.org page.
Last modified: 16 December 2002