From Puzzling to StackExchange

This is a variation of a game I used to play with my friends in my childhood. You are given a starting word, and using the following operations, you have to reach the target word. The solution that requires the least number of moves wins.

Rules:

• In any move, you can either replace a letter, add a letter, remove a letter, split a word or combine two words. These are the five valid moves, and only one of these can be applied in a move.

• After each move, each of the resulting words must be valid by itself, even if it makes no sense as a phrase. To level the playing field, only words found on Dictionary.com are considered valid. No proper nouns, abbreviations, prefixes or suffixes allowed. (However, words like jack, john, jane etc. are allowed as they are used as common nouns too.) Alternate spellings and archaic words are permitted, but words referring to specific persons, places or events are not valid.

• You may only add a letter to an existing word, but a new letter (such as a or I) cannot create a new word separately. Likewise, you cannot drop a letter from a one-letter word to remove it altogether.

As an example, consider the following solution where I go from stack to exchange:

stack
stark
star
stay
stray
astray
a stray
as stray
ax stray
ex stray
ex stay
ex star
ex stare
ex share
ex chare
ex charge
ex change
exchange

This solution required 17 moves. (It may not be the optimal strategy for this pair of words, but it is a valid strategy, given just as an example).

Challenge:

In how many moves can you get from Puzzling to Stack Exchange?

An Extra Twist:

The solution which achieves this in the least number of moves will be awarded the green tick. However, in the event of a tie, each of the words will be assigned their Scrabble score and then added up. The one with the highest Scrabble score will win.

User            Moves

Lampost42       20
Gordon K        21
Raystafarian    21

• The difficulty is to get rid of those damn Z's! – Rand al'Thor Aug 17 '15 at 7:52
• Can confirm there's at least a 33 step solution. – Al.Sal Aug 17 '15 at 8:08
• a 12-step version of your example is: stack, stark, shark, sh ark, eh ark, ex ark, ex hark, ex hare, ex chare, ex charge, ex change, exchange – Gordon K Aug 17 '15 at 8:49
• This is begging for a super computer's bruteforce... If only I had one. – warspyking Aug 19 '15 at 18:54
• You forgot a tag, I added it in for you – warspyking Aug 19 '15 at 20:36

I've got 20

puzzling
muzzling
muzz ling
fuzz ling
fuze ling
faze ling
fake ling
sake ling
saker ling
sacker ling
stacker ling
stack er ling
stack ex ling
stack ex line
stack ex lane
stack ex cane
stack ex care
stack ex chare
stack ex charge
stack ex change
stack exchange

• With the best valid entry thus far, you get the green tick for now although you should protect your answer by maximizing your Scrabble score. – CodeNewbie Aug 21 '15 at 18:12

I've done it in 21:

puzzling

muzzling

muzz ling

muzz line

muzz lane

muzz cane

muzz care

muzz chare

muzz charge

muzz change

fuzz change

fuze change

faze change

fare change

tare change

stare change

starer change

star er change

star ex change

stark ex change

stark exchange

stack exchange

• You can cut some out since "ling" is a word! – Al.Sal Aug 17 '15 at 8:30
• @CodeNewbie Thanks, I've corrected it. Obviously I'm better with words than numbers! – Gordon K Aug 17 '15 at 9:10
• @GordonK: Nice edit, but e isn't a word. I've tightened rules to avoid abbreviations, prefixes and suffixes. Sorry for this late edit. – CodeNewbie Aug 17 '15 at 11:01
• The idea was to keep it restricted to English words (even if they're archaic or alternate spellings). So no, es isn't allowed as it's only defined as a suffix or abbr. – CodeNewbie Aug 17 '15 at 11:03
• @dberm22 Not according to Dictionary.com and rule 2 specifies that the words must be in there – Gordon K Aug 17 '15 at 17:47

Here's a way to do it in 20 moves:

puzzling
muzzling
mizzling
fizzling
fizz ling
fizz hing
fizz hang
fizz chang
fizz change
fuzz change
fuze change
faze change
fare change
tare change
stare change
starer change
star er change
star ex change
stark ex change
stark exchange
stack exchange

• Isn't Chang a proper noun? – Lampost42 Aug 17 '15 at 22:46
• @Lampost42 is correct. Chang isn't valid as per the rules. Great try nonetheless – CodeNewbie Aug 18 '15 at 3:53
• @CodeNewbie I didn't mean it as a Chinese personal name, but as a name for the river Yangtze (as it's listed at dictionary.com). Does that count as a proper noun? – Rand al'Thor Aug 18 '15 at 7:58
• Yes, that would be a proper noun. It's specific to the river Yangtze and to no other river. – CodeNewbie Aug 18 '15 at 8:54

I did it in 21 moves from puzzling to stack exchange. But I'm pretty sure there has to be a place to shave off a move.

puzzling

muzzling

muzz ling

muzz line

muzz lane

muzz laner

muzz langer

muzz hanger

muzz changer

muzz change

fuzz change

fuze change

faze change

fare change

care change

carex change

car ex change

scar ex change

star ex change

stark ex change

stack ex change

stack exchange

• Uhoh, I think it's time to get calculating the Scrabble scores... Good job Raystafarian! – CodeNewbie Aug 17 '15 at 18:23
• @CodeNewbie I have to be honest, muzzling hit a double letter and a triple word on my board.. – Raystafarian Aug 17 '15 at 18:24
• Isn't Lange a proper noun? Carex is a useful word, though. I missed that one. – Gordon K Aug 17 '15 at 19:39
• @GordonK yeah, I guess Lange is a proper noun, hmmm. OK replaced lange with laner. – Raystafarian Aug 17 '15 at 19:43

19 moves i think

1.puzzling
2.muzzling
3.muzz ling
4.muzz lang
5.muzz hang
6.muzz chang
7.muzz change
8.fuzz change
9.fuze change
10.faze change
11.fake change
12.flake change
13.flaker change
14.flak er change
15.flak ex change
16.flak exchange
17.flack exchange
18.slack exchange
19.stack exchange

• chang is not a valid word according to rule 2. – CodeNewbie Aug 18 '15 at 9:51
• @CodeNewbie Bummer :(, – user13083 Aug 18 '15 at 9:56
• +1 nonetheless. You should try to find a fix to your answer. Because barring that one word, this answer is rock solid. – CodeNewbie Aug 18 '15 at 9:57
• Nice one! I had a solution with "chang" too, but the best I could get was 20 moves. – Rand al'Thor Aug 18 '15 at 10:08
• @CodeNewbie Are you allowed slang if it is on dictionary.com? Can't see anything in the rules saying you can't ? – user13083 Aug 18 '15 at 10:12