The Numberplay blog on the NY Times website used to have word ladder puzzles along with their weekly math puzzles. I found them fun and so I figured I'd introduce them here. These aren't just your basic word ladders either.
- You can change a single letter in place, as in traditional word ladders — for example, SOAP to SOUP.
- You can add or subtract a single letter in place to increase or decrease the length of a word — for example, MATH to MATCH or vice versa.
- You can change a single letter and rearrange the letters of the word to give another word of the same length — for example, MUSEUM to SUMMED (with a U changed to D and then rearrangement).
The aim is to make the shortest possible ladder. All steps must be valid English words. You can use the Enable list for a comprehensive list of words.
Here's an example:
CIRCLE to SQUARE
Now try these:
WOLVES to SHEEP
NUMBER to PATTERN
Just for fun, here are the two words that are furthest apart and the ladder between them:
gametophytes , gametophyte (-s), hepatectomy (g -> c), hypothecate (m -> h), hypothecated (+d), tracheophyte (d -> r), phreatophyte (c -> p), phreatophytes (+s), phanerophytes (t -> n), nephropathies (y -> i), ethnographies (p -> g), stenographies (h -> s), atherogenesis (p -> e), teratogenesis (h -> t), antiestrogens (e -> n), antiestrogen (-s), nitrogenases (t -> s), reassignment (o -> m), mastersinger (n -> r), streamliners (g -> l), masterliness (r -> s), essentialism (r -> i), timelinesses (a -> e), timelessness (i -> s), silentnesses (m -> n), tonelessness (i -> o), solemnnesses (t -> m), movelessness (n -> v), lovelessness (m -> l), lovelinesses (s -> i), slovenliness (e -> n), lovingnesses (l -> g), livingnesses (o -> i), kinglinesses (v -> k), slinkinesses (g -> s), sicklinesses (n -> c), stickinesses (l -> t), trickinesses (s -> r), trickishness (e -> h), ticklishness (r -> l), singlesticks (h -> g), singlestick (-s)