I need to encode


into a mastermind number list. ex;

Solve the code:

318 One number is correct and well placed

271 One number is correct but wrong placed

709 Two numbers are correct but wrong placed

182 Nothing is correct

Through extrapolation and logic, one can determine the code. Similarly and on an upscaled version, how can I encode the alphanumeric (caps) code "HA2QG" giving the most complexity but the least amount of numbers.

  • $\begingroup$ so, you want to pose a 5-symbol mastermind for which the unique solution is HA2QG? what do you mean by complexity - how is it measured? least amount of clues would be one clue containing the answer. $\endgroup$
    – Jasen
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 1:21
  • $\begingroup$ Is your code "397"? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 1:54

2 Answers 2


The question is a little unclear, but it sounds like you're asking for something like the example above, but whose solution is HA2QG.

One thing to be aware of right off the bat: The example uses only numeric digits, so each position has 10 possible values. Using an alphanumeric code increases that to 36 possibilities per position (26 letters + 10 numbers). That means you likely won't want to determine any of the characters by elimination, since that will require eliminating 35 possibilities in order to find the correct one.

I will use the following notation:

  • Bold indicates the number of characters that are correct, and in the correct location.
  • Regular text indicates the number of characters that are correct, but in the incorrect location.

So H8AGP (1, 2) means that one character (H) is exactly correct, and two characters (A, G) are correct, but in the wrong location.

Your request is a little ambiguous, because you ask for "the most complexity" and "the least amount of [clues]". These two are at odds.

If you are trying only to minimize the number of clues, then the obvious thing to do would be:

  1. HA2QG (5)

This doesn't make for much of a puzzle, since you are just providing the answer, but it does minimize the number of clues.

On the flip side, if you're aiming only for complexity, you can end up with a huge number of clues:

  1. BH7UK (1)
  2. BH7UL (1)
  3. BH7UM (1)
  4. BH7UN (1)
  5. BH7UO (1)
  6. BH7UP (1)
  7. ...continue, ad infinitum

The only information given by all 6 of the clues above is that the solution contains one of B, H, 7, U, and there is a single position eliminated for each of them.

You could use this method (or many, many others) to create hundreds of clues that, when combined would allow the solution to be discovered, but would take a lot of elimination and brainpower.

It sounds like what you're looking for is the right balance of conciseness and complexity, to make a relatively compact, but not-too-easy puzzle.

I would do something like the puzzle in your example, where you keep mixing up the characters in the clues, and each clue gives away only one or two bits of information.

With an alphanumeric puzzle, you could have a little fun as well by making your clues be words, or obvious plays on common words or phrases. For example:

  • GHOST (2)
  • QUART (2)
  • HAREM (2)
  • 2MUCH (2)
  • SQUAD (2)
  • DOING (1)
  • UR2QT (2)
  • GO2HL (1, 2)

Unfortunately, I don't think there's any algorithm that will give you the balance you seem to be seeking between complexity and conciseness. While there are certainly algorithms to create clues for a puzzle such as this, the clues will probably be uninspired and either trivial to solve or unnecessarily complex. I think your best bet is just to create your own clues. You might want to look at Clever ways to solve Mastermind? for some ideas as well.

  • $\begingroup$ recheck: 2much = 2 $\endgroup$
    – Jasen
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 1:15
  • $\begingroup$ You mentioned that there could be an algorithm that would make the puzzle unnecessarily complex, could you please elaborate? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 5:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Tommy I don't know any algorithms offhand, but I imagine you could create an algorithm that would randomly create clues until you have enough to uniquely solve the puzzle. But with a field of 36 different characters, most of the clues would probably be something like "BJKR0 (0)", which would just add noise without contributing anything significant to the solution. Or maybe you would be required to determine some of the characters by elimination, which would mean enough clues to eliminate 35 of the characters so you can determine the correct one for a given position. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 15:46

So... You're using alphanumeric, caps. That provides different characters. If you interpret HA2QG as a number in base 36, you can turn it into 29023576 in decimal. Your outputted answer has 8 digits, and can take on a possible $36^5$ different values, given any five digit input in base 36.

  • $\begingroup$ Note that there's a tradeoff between the size of a code and how much complexity you can cram into it. Also, not all mastermind problems are solvable with logic; some yield logical paradoxes. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 20:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ all well-formed mastermind problems are paradox-free, and if there are sufficient clues they have a single solution $\endgroup$
    – Jasen
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 1:18

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