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1.3 Using choice lists

If you are not sure about a letter in a word, but know it is one of a small number of possibilities, you can represent this with a "choice list" in TEA. Choice lists can be used in either a template or an anagram pattern; they are indicated by enclosing the choice of letters within square brackets ([ and ]). If you start the choice list with a caret (^) it matches any letter NOT in the list.

The clue given in the previous step helps illustrate one use for choice lists:

One novel printed in bold (8)

Suppose you realize that the "One" indicates a letter of the answer and that this could be either A or I, you can use a choice list rather than a dot to help narrow down the possibilities, as shown below:

Step 3 initial image

Type ;[ai]printed into the box below the Pattern label and click on the Word Search button. You should see the range of answers narrow to five possibilities, making it even easier to spot the correct answer intrepid.

You can also use choice lists in a template. Suppose you wanted to find six-letter words starting with a Q, but not followed by a U. This is a situation where it helps to use a caret (^) to negate the selection, as shown below:

Step 3 final image

Type q[^u].... into the box below the Pattern label and click on the Word Search button. You should see that nothing is shown for the Core English list as there are no commonly used words that fit the pattern. However, there are many more obscure ones found in the larger word lists.

Sometimes you need to use a choice list several times. TEA allows you to define a frequently used part of a pattern as a "macro" represented by @ and #. Because choice lists can get quite long, they are the most common replacement for macros - in fact, the default expansions for @ and # are [aeiou] (signifying any vowel) and [^aeiou] (signifying any consonant). Macros are covered in more detail in Step 7.

In the next step, we will learn about "Wildcards" which represent arbitrary numbers of letters.


Relevant Help Sections

Choice Lists

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