The Anagrams Kata from Dave Thomas
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### Kata Six: Anagrams

Back to non-realistic coding this week (sorry, Martin). Let's solve some
crossword puzzle clues.

In England, I used to waste hour upon hour doing newspaper crosswords.
As crossword fans will know, English cryptic crosswords have a totally
different feel to their American counterparts: most clues involve
punning or word play, and there are lots of anagrams to work through.
For example, a recent Guardian

        21. Most unusual form of arrest (6)

The hint is the phrase ‘form of,’ indicating that we’re looking for an
anagram. Sure enough ‘arrest’ has six letters, and can be arranged
nicely into ‘rarest,’ meaning ‘most unusual.’ (Other anagrams include
raster, raters, Sartre, and starer)

A while back we had a thread on the Ruby mailing list about finding
anagrams, and I’d like to resurrect it here. The challenge is fairly
simple: given a file containing one word per line, print out all the
combinations of words that are anagrams; each line in the output
contains all the words from the input that are anagrams of each other.
For example, your program might include in its output:

      kinship pinkish
      enlist inlets listen silent
      boaster boaters borates
      fresher refresh
      sinks skins
      knits stink
      rots sort

If you run this on the word list
[here]( you should find
2,530 sets of anagrams (a total of 5,680 words). Running on a larger
dictionary (about 234k words) on my OSX box produces 15,048 sets of
anagrams (including all-time favorites such as actaeonidae/donatiaceae,
crepitant/pittancer, and (for those readers in Florida)

For added programming pleasure, find the longest words that are
anagrams, and find the set of anagrams containing the most words (so
"parsley players replays sparely" would not win, having only four words
in the set).

Kata Objectives

Apart from having some fun with words, this kata should make you think
somewhat about algorithms. The simplest algorithms to find all the
anagram combinations may take inordinate amounts of time to do the job.
Working though alternatives should help bring the time down by orders of
magnitude. To give you a possible point of comparison, I hacked a
solution together in 25 lines of Ruby. It runs on the word list from my
web site in 1.5s on a 1GHz PPC. It’s also an interesting exercise in
testing: can you write unit tests to verify that your code is working
correctly before setting it to work on the full dictionary.

Posted at 05:56 PM |