I recently published an analysis on the Master Lock 4 letter combination locks. They have an unusual letter distribution and I was curious how many English words could be generated with those locks. It turned out that those Master Locks could create a lot more words than I had anticipated.
In light of the popularity of that post I once again worked with Rich Bragg of ClueKeeper to run the same analysis on the popular WordLock PL-004 5-Dial.
This lock seems to have fewer clichéd words, but there are a few that pop up a little too often including:
This analysis is focused on the most current 5 disk WordLock model, the PL-004. There are 3 older models with somewhat different letter distributions and WordLock has other 4 disk products.
The fixed-disk WordLock uses the following letter configuration:
Disk 1: L S W B P F M D T A
Disk 2: A P O R I L C E T N
Disk 3: S E R I L A N U T O
Disk 4: E L D A O S K N R T
Disk 5: R L S N T H Y D _ E
There are two particularly interesting things about this letter distribution.
First, the blank spot on the fifth disk (represented above with an underscore) cleverly allows the WordLock to represent 4 or 5 letter words.
Second, the lock has asymmetrical disks that, when all aligned, defaults 7 of the 10 lines of the lock into words:
- BRIAN … if you consider a name to be a word
- ANOTE … while it does have a definition, this more looks like a word than is a word
While the remaining three lines are gibberish, it’s still a nifty and thoughtful feature as the lock looks cool with all of those words on its face.
What Words Can This Distribution Generate?
Here’s the spreadsheet. The left-most column contains 1,652 core English words. These are the best words that the analysis found. The further right you move, the less useful the words generally are (and the farthest right is mostly nonsense).
Analysis Methodology & Column Explanation
Absolutely everything about this analysis and its outputs conforms to the same information presented in the last letter lock analysis, so I won’t rehash it. It’s on the Master Lock post if you’re interested.
Odd Letter Distribution Hypothesis
After publishing the last analysis some members of the room escape community proposed a hypothesis about the odd letter distribution on those Master Locks:
It seemed like Master Lock may have been trying to make it impossible to spell curse words.
This seems like a valid answer for both Master Lock and WordLock’s letter selection. I cannot prove this one way or another, but you cannot generate the most popular American English swear words with these locks… so that’s probably not a coincidence.
Nevertheless, sifting through the wordlist revealed a few “vulgar” or degrading words… and I’m including them because my inner 10 year-old thinks this list is hilarious:
ANAL, ANUS, BALLS, BONER, DORK, PANSY, SISSY, and PENAL (That last one isn’t at all vulgar, but it sure feels like it should be.) You can also generate the word MOIST… which apparently is a word that a lot of people hate.
There are also TONS of innuendo-y words that I didn’t include… because I’m an adult.
This is a prototypical REA article; very useful and fun to read. Letting the inner 10 year old out to share a perspective is humorously endearing.
Thank you 🙂
We don’t try to make sense out of number locks, why do letter locks need to spell words? I find that people brute force letter locks if actual words are used that align with the theme of the room. Sometimes we use random letter combinations in our rooms. We don’t find that it causes players a problem when the code is just a series of random letters and the puzzle is well clued.
I finds that the advantage of having letter locks be actual words is that its a gratifying confirmation that the puzzle has been solved correctly. The trick is finding words that they won’t just guess but that are still on the nose enough that the players will know that they are right.
Brute force-rs are a tiny percentage of our customers. I personally would rather have 95% satisfied ‘Aha!’ moments versus everyone getting a ‘maybe its this’ feeling.
Just my two cents.
While I can see opportunities where non-words are smart, I generally agree with this.
Super helpful article! Kudos!
Great article which has really helped me. Especially after a retailer assured me I could make the word BRAIN with it. I guess they spell it BRIAN!
That’s pretty funny. You can spell anything that you want with one of these… https://amzn.to/2qMHsH5. You just need to buy a few of them to get enough disks with the right letters.
Has anyone found any locks that support 4 letters with re-assignable discs/wheels? The Master 5-dial word lock isn’t bad, but if you want a 5-letter or 5-digit combination, you’ll need to combine multiple locks of the same color, because Master only includes 4 alphabetic dials and 4 numeric dials. I’d like to get some locks that allow 4-letter words that aren’t in the possibilities of the previously discuss locks here.
Your options for letter locks are very limited. Those 5 wheel Master Locks also come in a less common 4 wheel variant (but with number wheels that can be substituted for letter wheels. https://amzn.to/2my7lIE
In general, your best store-bought bet is to buy a bunch of the 5 wheel letter locks, and then redistribute the wheels as needed. It is admittedly a mediocre solution. https://amzn.to/2O6DRP1
If you have access to a 3D printer, you can always make your own wheels: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2262858
It is a letter combo lock, containing 4 letters, it has the option to choose ur own personal letter combo or ‘word’ & also the ability to change it as frequently as desired.
Thanks for the reply, David! For a puzzle hunt party I’m doing, one of my designers was hoping to use the codeword “TOGA” to unlock a lock. I’ve advised him to redesign the puzzle around what is easily available, but your two ideas are excellent — I wasn’t aware of the 4-digit numeric lock sharing the same dials as the alphabetic one — that would definitely work, although I think only one dial comes with a “G”, so it would require buying a bunch and hoping for a set of matching colors.
The 3D printer option is even more interesting, because I could substitute alternative glyphs for letters.
I’m happy to help. I’d recommend running some tests on the 3D print concept and see how the materials hold up as well as how tight the tolerances need to be to keep the lock spinning correctly.
If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to hear how it turns out?
I decided to go the route of replacing dials on a compatible 4-digit Master lock. You can see the results here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/b9egQt7Kt88PNGm77
Because I’ve got leftover dials from quite a few locks (as you can see in one of the photos) I experimented with mixing colors. I think I’m going to stick with the white and blue combination and clue the color scheme in the puzzle somewhere, as I’ve got several blue locks already.
That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing!
David, do you know if/how the WordLock with 5 letters comes apart? Is it possible to switch the wheels on that one? Can’t seem to find anything online. Thanks!
It doesn’t come apart. You have to use a coin or a screwdriver to twist the plate on the side, which sets it to reset mode.
The word WANK is also available… perhaps indicate to the room escape-er that he needs to masturbate to find the key? ANAL, TITS, PISS, and FART are also available.
Thank you. With the list I finally found the right word.
So glad to hear it.
Would a list of Spanish words be possible?
I’ve been planning to revisit this project again.
Doing a list in another language is possible but challenging for two reasons: First, our software is setup for English analysis (but we might be able to overcome that and load in a different dictionary). The second challenge is reviewing the list to remove total junk. It’s hard enough in my native language, but I’d need to find someone else to help review the outputs in other languages.
I’d be interested in trying if the stars align.
thanks for this, the huge list actually helped me reach that aha! moment
Do you have a list of possible words for the 4-letter WordLock LL-277?
We don’t, but I am hoping to do more of these analyses.
This is a list of all of the locks that we have analyzed thus far: https://roomescapeartist.com/category/products/letter-lock-analysis/