Let me introduce you to a game I invented called Wordmorph K (WmK). You may have played a variation of this game in the past.

WmK Rules:

1) The objective is to transform the "Start Word" to the "Finish Word" in the fewest steps. Your final score is the total number of steps taken. To win this game, you must get a score that is less than or equal to my "K Score".

2) In each step, you may do one of the following:

  • Substitute a letter (man -> men)

  • Add a letter (man -> mean)

  • Remove a letter (men -> me)

  • Anagram the word (team -> mate)

3) The result at each step must be a playable English word (explained below). If the word at a particular step is not common knowledge, the player is expected to provide the definition.

4) A word is considered valid English if and only if it has an entry on the “Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary.” This rule is without exception.

5) A playable word must NOT:

  • have an apostrophe or hyphen (including affixes & combining forms)

  • have a numerical digit

  • have a diacritic

A playable word MAY:

  • be a variant/archaic spelling, proper noun, abbreviation, acronym, archaic/obsolete, slang, vulgar/offensive, specialized jargon, foreign, etc so long as it meets Rule #4.

  • have periods, if at the end of an abbreviation or at the end of every letter of an acronym.

  • have any form of capitalization.

Are you ready to give it a go?

Start Word: LIFE

Finish Word: FOWL

K Score: 3

  • $\begingroup$ Do you think this could have the word-ladder tag? $\endgroup$
    – Riley
    Jun 3 '18 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Riley that makes sense. I've added it. $\endgroup$
    – kedarguru
    Jun 3 '18 at 19:18
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Curious: does K actually mean anything? $\endgroup$
    – Quintec
    Jun 4 '18 at 3:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @thecoder16 It does not stand for anything technical actually. K is my first initial, and this is my own personal variation on the game Wordmorph, so I just called it Wordmorph K. Also, “K Score” is simply my own score :) $\endgroup$
    – kedarguru
    Jun 4 '18 at 4:03

FEIL (anagram)
FOIL (E -> O)
FOWL (I -> W)

Feil is a Scottish word meaning comfortable.

  • $\begingroup$ That was fast! I intended for this to be an introduction, so it is simpler than usual. These puzzles should not be so easy in the future. $\endgroup$
    – kedarguru
    Jun 3 '18 at 19:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @kedarguru As a piece of advice for future WmK's, try using words that require a lot of steps. The fact that this puzzle has only K value 3 means that you immediately know you need two substitutions and an anagram. Then finding the right words doesn't take too long. $\endgroup$
    – Riley
    Jun 3 '18 at 19:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That is very insightful. You will definitely see a higher K value in my next puzzle. $\endgroup$
    – kedarguru
    Jun 3 '18 at 19:58

Alternative answer:

LIFE -> LIFO -> FOIL -> FOWL (LIFO means last in, first out, typically in the context of computing)

Full analysis:

We have two letter changes in the word sets between LIFE and FOWL, so we need to have at least two substitutions (Instead of a substitution, we can use a letter addition and a letter subtraction, but this will be too slow.) We must also use at least one anagram, because L and F are not in the right order. Therefore, our anagram must take LxFy -> FxyL or FyxL at some point, and {x,y} turns from I,E to O,W over two turns.
If we perform a letter change at the start, our options are LIFW, LWFE, LOFE, LIFO. Only LIFO has a M-W page.
Then from LIFO, we must either go to LWFO (not valid) or FOIL (valid), for which FOWL follows.
If we anagram at the start, our options are FEIL and FIEL; only FEIL has a valid M-W page. Then from FEIL we can go to FEWL (not valid) or FOIL (valid), for which FOWL follows.
Hence, Riley's answer plus this one are the only two possible answers.

  • $\begingroup$ This is a great analysis! And it demonstrates the mode of thinking necessary to solve these puzzles. $\endgroup$
    – kedarguru
    Jun 3 '18 at 19:27

LIFE → LIFO (abbr. of last in, first out) → FOIL → FOWL

  • $\begingroup$ This was my answer actually! Unfortunately, @Riley beat you to it. $\endgroup$
    – kedarguru
    Jun 3 '18 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ @kedarguru Yes, but I liked this alternative, which uses an abbreviation that many may be familiar with. $\endgroup$
    – noedne
    Jun 3 '18 at 18:37

A possible answer:


  • $\begingroup$ It looks like this has a score of 4, not 3. $\endgroup$
    – Riley
    Jun 3 '18 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I thought a score of 3 meant 3 words in between the start and finish. Anyhow, I've already been beaten to answer. $\endgroup$
    – Zimonze
    Jun 3 '18 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ It doesn't say explicitly what "score" means, but because it says "fewest steps," I'm assuming that each word change counts towards your score. EDIT: the question was edited and agrees with my interpretation of score. $\endgroup$
    – Riley
    Jun 3 '18 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Riley sorry about that point of confusion. $\endgroup$
    – kedarguru
    Jun 3 '18 at 18:36

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