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[Rated PG-13 for language}

I saw someone wearing a "Life happens" t-shirt, which is a fine enough sentiment, but not the most common turn of phrase. It made me wonder...

How fast can you turn LIFE to SHIT? With Merriam-Webster words, I suppose, and no deletions/insertions. I don't word-ladder much, so I have some suspicions, but no firm answer.

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You can turn Life into Shit in 6 steps:

LIFE → LIFT → LOFT → LOOT → SOOT → SHOT → SHIT

or

LIFE → LIFT → SIFT → SOFT → SOOT → SHOT → SHIT

or

LIFE → LIFT → LOFT → SOFT → SOOT → SHOT → SHIT

This is the optimal solution.

Why 6 steps?

Having 4 steps (the practical optimal solution) is not possible. Why? We need to change one letter at a time, and it is impossible:

Life- Sife? Lhfe? Liie? Lift

But when what do we go after LIFT? The only other option is SIFT, but what can we go after that? siit or shft? None, so therefore 4 steps won't work. 5 steps also wont work, so the only other option is the 6 steps, which is the answer.

My thinking solution:

After verifying that LIFE must go to LIFT, we have 3 options in front of us, as we have LOFT and SIFT. SIFT only goes to SOFT, and LOFT can go to SOFT OR LOOT, which then goes to the same thing: SOOT. From there, we can easily finish it off: SHOT and SHIT.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wow, that was simple. I really don't do word ladders much! $\endgroup$
    – Exal
    Sep 7 at 7:57
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, it most Word Ladders are simple when you get the basics of it. Don't worry if you don't really do word ladders! After a few word ladder examples, you get the ideas of them. To be honest, it was a bit fiddly to find all the words and all 3 options. Happy Puzzling! $\endgroup$
    – Stevo
    Sep 7 at 8:00
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    $\begingroup$ For fun, you can insert 'LOOP' $\endgroup$
    – smci
    Sep 7 at 20:02
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    $\begingroup$ Also (rot13) YVSR → YVSR → YRSG → YRNG → FRNG → FUNG → FUVG which has some conjugation-related bonus points. $\endgroup$ Sep 7 at 20:08

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