Crossword Solver with CentOS

Published 29 Mar 2020 · 2 min read
Learn how to use CentOS words package for help solving crossword puzzles

If you enjoy crossword puzzles but sometimes get stuck on a devious one, here's a fun use of the CentOS words package.

If you don't already have a CentOS image running, the following will get you and running quickly. Make sure Docker is installed, then run the following commands in a terminal:

docker pull centos:7
docker run --name mycentos -d centos:7 tail -f /dev/null
docker exec -it mycentos bash

If you exit out of the container and want to come back, run the following to restart it and get back in:

docker start mycentos
docker exec -it mycentos bash

Now, in a bash shell in the container, install the package:

yum install words
# dictionary file is now in /usr/share/dict/words

You can use the grep command with regex to search the dictionary files, for example, to find all words ending in "ion":

grep -E 'ion$' /usr/share/dict/words
# abacination
# abaction
# abalation
# ...

Now here's how it can be used to help with crossword puzzles, suppose you've gotten this far, and stuck on number 8 down "Wind instrument":

crossword example

Few hints we have is that it's a four letter word, starting with an unknown character, followed by "BO", followed by one more unknown character. All that's needed is to construct a regex to express this, then search the words dictionary:

grep -iE '^.BO.$' /usr/share/dict/words
# abos
# abow
# abox
# Eboe
# eboe
# Eboh
# ebon
# Ibos
# Oboe
# oboe
# obol

Aha, "oboe" is the answer!

crossword solved

To test this out, try free online crossword puzzles at

Of course, try to solve as much of the puzzle without help but when you get stuck, the words package can come to the rescue. Enjoy!