I read in an old puzzle book of mine (I don't remember what it was called, but it had an orange hardback cover and featured only original puzzles) that it is possible to create a list of words that would ensure the second player victory in two person Ghost (a classic word game) every time. For example, starting with C would result in CWM, resulting in victory for the second player. Starting with B would result in BWANA.

Assuming that a three-letter word or longer gets one out, and using the newest official word list from Scrabble as the word source (that's like the OSPD but includes censored words), is this indeed possible, and what are the words?

(For bonus points give me a list assuming four-or-longer as well.)

  • $\begingroup$ Can someone who is familiar with Ruby run this script: github.com/hickford/ghost on the OWL4 wordlist? $\endgroup$
    – TheAsh
    Jul 29, 2019 at 0:29
  • $\begingroup$ I am offering a bounty to whoever posts the answer with based on the OWL 4 wordlist. $\endgroup$
    – TheAsh
    Aug 2, 2019 at 2:20
  • $\begingroup$ Has a correct answer been given? If so, please don't forget to $\color{green}{\checkmark \small\text{Accept}}$ it. If not, some responses to the answerers to help steer them in the right direction would be helpful. $\endgroup$
    – Rubio
    Aug 7, 2019 at 0:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Rubio, not yet. I did indicate in a number of places why the solution is inadequate - it has not yet been answered with the required word list (The OWL 4, or the Scrabble wordlist.) $\endgroup$
    – TheAsh
    Aug 7, 2019 at 5:07

3 Answers 3



isn’t possible for player 2 to always win (or even for one player to always win) as shown by Randall Munroe’s XKCD blog. If I understand your question correctly, player 1 beginning with H, J, M, or Z will win Player 1 the game every time; player 2 will win the game every other time. Sample lists are found for each letter in the link above.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "(I hear if you use the Scrabble wordlist, it’s always a win for the second player)." That is what I'm referring to. $\endgroup$
    – TheAsh
    Jul 28, 2019 at 21:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don’t get your question, @TheAsh. One of the words in the link is hazard. I’m pretty sure that’s in the Scrabble word list and a win for player 1..... $\endgroup$
    – El-Guest
    Jul 28, 2019 at 21:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TheAsh However, "Hm" and "Mm" are also in the Scrabble word list, so replying to "H" or "M" with "M" means you immediately lose. $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2019 at 10:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TheAsh: I think J is a losing strategy as well; the second player can respond with U, forcing the first player to complete JUS. $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2019 at 13:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelSeifert: with JU the first player could play N, leading towards June or Juniper... that said, juniper could be a forced win too... $\endgroup$
    – El-Guest
    Jul 29, 2019 at 13:34

The book is David Silverman's Your Move.

Another easy 2nd-player win the author mentions is DV forcing the first player into DVANDVA or DVORNIK.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This is great, but not an answer. $\endgroup$
    – TheAsh
    Jul 28, 2019 at 22:21

Curiously enough, I wrote a program to do just this nearly 10 years ago! I've long since lost the program, but here are all the ways the second player can force a win:

a: ['aorta', 'aortographies', 'aortography']
b: ['bwana']
c: ['cnidarian', 'ctenidium', 'ctenoid', 'ctenophoran']
d: ['dwarf', 'dwarves', 'dweeb', 'dwell', 'dwelt', 'dwindle', 'dwindling', 'dwine', 'dwining']
e: ['ejaculate', 'ejaculating', 'ejaculation', 'eject', 'equable', 'equably', 'equal', 'equator', 'equerries', 'equerry', 'equiangular', 'equicaloric', 'equid', 'equilateral', 'equilibrant', 'equilibrate', 'equilibrating', 'equilibration', 'equilibrist', 'equilibrium', 'equimolar', 'equinoctial', 'equinox', 'equip', 'equisetum', 'equitable', 'equitably', 'equites', 'equivalence', 'equivalencies', 'equivalency', 'equivocal', 'equivocator', 'equivoque']
f: ['fjeld', 'fjord']
g: ['gjetost']
h: ['hryvnia']
i: ['ihram', 'ipomoea', 'ipsilateral', 'ivied', 'ivies', 'ivories', 'ivory', 'ivylike']
j: ['jnana']
k: ['klatsch', 'klavern', 'kleagle', 'kleptomania', 'klezmer', 'klezmorim', 'klister', 'klong', 'kloof', 'kluge', 'klutz', 'kwashiorkor']
l: ['llama', 'llano']
m: ['mbira', 'mpret']
n: ['ngwee', 'nyala', 'nylghai', 'nylghau', 'nylon', 'nymph', 'nystagmic', 'nystagmus']
o:  ['oecumenical', 'oedipal', 'oenomel', 'oenophile', 'oersted', 'oesophagi', 'oestrin', 'oestrum', 'oestrus', 'oquassa', 'ozocerite', 'ozokerite', 'ozonate', 'ozonating', 'ozonation', 'ozone', 'ozonide', 'ozonise', 'ozonising', 'ozonization', 'ozonize', 'ozonizing', 'ozonosphere', 'ozonous']
p: ['pneumococci', 'pneumograph', 'pneumonectomies', 'pneumonectomy', 'pneumonia', 'pneumonic', 'pneumonitides', 'pneumonitis', 'ptarmigan', 'pteridine', 'pteridologies', 'pteridologist', 'pteridology', 'pterodactyl', 'pterosaur', 'pterygium', 'pterygoid', 'pteryla', 'ptomain', 'ptyalin']
q: ['quaff', 'quahaug', 'quake', 'quakier', 'quakily', 'quaking', 'quaky', 'quale', 'qualifiable', 'qualification', 'qualified', 'qualifier', 'qualifies', 'qualify', 'qualitative', 'qualities', 'quality', 'qualm', 'quamash', 'quant', 'quare', 'quark', 'quarrel', 'quart', 'quash', 'quasi', 'quass', 'quate', 'quattuordecillion', 'quean', 'queasiest', 'queaziest', 'quebracho', 'queen', 'queer', 'quell', 'quercetin', 'querida', 'queried', 'querier', 'queries', 'querist', 'quern', 'querulous', 'query', 'quest', 'quetzal', 'queue', 'queuing', 'quibble', 'quibbling', 'quick', 'quiescent', 'quiet', 'quiff', 'quill', 'quilt', 'quire', 'quiring', 'quirk', 'quirt', 'quixote', 'quixotism', 'quoin', 'quoit', 'quomodo', 'quondam', 'quota', 'quote', 'quoth', 'quotidian', 'quoting', 'qursh']
r: ['reaccession', 'reacclimatize', 'reacclimatizing', 'reach', 'reacquire', 'reacquiring', 'reacquisition', 'react', 'reaffix', 'reagent', 'reaggregate', 'reaggregating', 'reaggregation', 'reanalyze', 'reanalyzing', 'reanimate', 'reanimating', 'reanimation', 'reannex', 'reassurance', 'reata', 'reattempt', 'reattribute', 'reattributing', 'reattribution', 'reauthorization', 'reauthorize', 'reauthorizing', 'reavail', 'reave', 'reaving', 'reawake', 'reawaking', 'reawoke', 'rebalance', 'rebalancing', 'rebaptism', 'rebaptize', 'rebaptizing', 'rebar', 'rebbe', 'rebec', 'rebegan', 'rebegin', 'rebegun', 'rebel', 'rebid', 'rebirth', 'reblend', 'rebloom', 'reboant', 'reboard', 'rebop', 'rebound', 'rebreed', 'rebroadcast', 'rebuild', 'rebuilt', 'rebus', 'rebut', 'rebuy', 'recalcitrance', 'recalcitrancies', 'recalcitrancy', 'recalculate', 'recalculating', 'recalculation', 'recalibrate', 'recalibrating', 'recalibration', 'recap', 'recarried', 'recarries', 'recarry', 'recce', 'receipt', 'receive', 'receiving', 'recencies', 'recency', 'recension', 'recertification', 'recertified', 'recertifies', 'recertify', 'rechallenge', 'rechallenging', 'rechannel', 'rechart', 'rechauffe', 'recheat', 'recheck', 'recherche', 'rechoreograph', 'rechose', 'rechromatograph', 'recipient', 'reciprocate', 'reciprocating', 'reciprocation', 'reciprocative', 'reciprocities', 'reciprocity', 'recirculate', 'recirculating', 'recirculation', 'recital', 'reclaim', 'reclamation', 'reclame', 'reclasp', 'reclean', 'recline', 'reclining', 'recluse', 'reclusion', 'reclusive', 'recognise', 'recognising', 'recognition', 'recognizabilities', 'recognizability', 'recognize', 'recognizing', 'recollect', 'recolor', 'recommend', 'recompilation', 'recompile', 'recompiling', 'recompose', 'recomposing', 'recomposition', 'recomputation', 'recompute', 'recomputing', 'recon', 'recount', 'recover', 'recrate', 'recrating', 'recriminate', 'recriminating', 'recrimination', 'recriminative', 'recriminatory', 'recross', 'recrown', 'recruit', 'recrystallization', 'recrystallize', 'recrystallizing', 'recta', 'recti', 'recto', 'rectrices', 'rectrix', 'recultivate', 'recultivating', 'recumbent', 'recur', 'recusal', 'recusancies', 'recusancy', 'recut', 'recycle', 'recycling', 'redan', 'redbait', 'redbird', 'redbone', 'redbreast', 'redcoat', 'redfish', 'redhead', 'redia', 'redid', 'redip', 'rediscuss', 'redisplay', 'redispose', 'redisposing', 'redisposition', 'redistill', 'redivivus', 'redline', 'redlining', 'redly', 'redneck', 'redness', 'redpoll', 'redraft', 'redream', 'redress', 'redried', 'redries', 'redrill', 'redrive', 'redriving', 'redroot', 'redrove', 'redry', 'redtail', 'redub', 'reducible', 'reducibly', 'reductant', 'reductase', 'reduction', 'reductive', 'redundant', 'reduplicate', 'reduplicating', 'reduplication', 'reduplicative', 'redux', 'redware', 'redwing', 'redwood', 'redye', 'reechiest', 'reeject', 'reembroider', 'reemphasize', 'reemphasizing', 'reenact', 'reencounter', 'reendow', 'reenforce', 'reenforcing', 'reengrave', 'reengraving', 'reenjoy', 'reenter', 'reentrant', 'reentries', 'reentry', 'reequip', 'reerect', 'reeve', 'reeving', 'reevoke', 'reevoking', 'reexamination', 'reexamine', 'reexamining', 'reexpel', 'reexplore', 'reexploring', 'reexpress', 'refashion', 'refed', 'refel', 'refence', 'refencing', 'refer', 'reffing', 'refight', 'refinance', 'refinancing', 'refit', 'refix', 'reflate', 'reflating', 'reflation', 'reflect', 'reflies', 'refloat', 'reflood', 'refluence', 'refly', 'refocus', 'reforge', 'reforging', 'refortification', 'refortified', 'refortifies', 'refortify', 'refound', 'refract', 'refrain', 'reframe', 'reframing', 'refrangible', 'refresh', 'refried', 'refries', 'refrigerant', 'refrigerate', 'refrigerating', 'refrigeration', 'refront', 'refroze', 'refry', 'refugia', 'refulgent', 'refurbish', 'refurnish', 'refusal', 'refutable', 'refutably', 'refutal', 'regal', 'regatta', 'regauge', 'regauging', 'regencies', 'regency', 'regenerable', 'regenerator', 'reges', 'regicidal', 'regisseur', 'registrable', 'registrar', 'reglaze', 'reglazing', 'regloss', 'regma', 'regna', 'regorge', 'regorging', 'regosol', 'regrade', 'regrading', 'regraft', 'regrant', 'regrate', 'regrating', 'regreen', 'regreet', 'regress', 'regrind', 'regroom', 'regroup', 'regular', 'regulator', 'regulus', 'regurgitate', 'regurgitating', 'regurgitation', 'rehab', 'rehem', 'rehinge', 'rehinging', 'rehospitalization', 'rehospitalize', 'rehospitalizing', 'rehouse', 'rehousing', 'rehydrate', 'rehydrating', 'rehydration', 'rehypnotize', 'rehypnotizing', 'reign', 'reimage', 'reimagine', 'reimaging', 'reimagining', 'reimburse', 'reimbursing', 'reimmerse', 'reimmersing', 'reimplant', 'reitbok', 'reiterate', 'reiterating', 'reiteration', 'reiterative', 'reive', 'reiving', 'rejoice', 'rejoicing', 'rejudge', 'rejudging', 'rejuvenator', 'rejuvenescent', 'rekey', 'relabel', 'relacquer', 'relandscape', 'relandscaping', 'relapse', 'relapsing', 'relatable', 'relator', 'relax', 'relay', 'relearn', 'release', 'releasing', 'relet', 'relevance', 'relevancies', 'relevancy', 'reliabilities', 'reliability', 'reliant', 'relic', 'relieve', 'relieving', 'relievo', 'relight', 'religiose', 'religiosities', 'religiosity', 'religious', 'reliquaries', 'reliquary', 'relique', 'reliquiae', 'relit', 'relocatable', 'relubricate', 'relubricating', 'relubrication', 'reman', 'remap', 'remarried', 'remarries', 'remarry', 'rematch', 'remeasure', 'remeasuring', 'remediabilities', 'remediability', 'remediate', 'remediating', 'remediation', 'remembrance', 'remerge', 'remerging', 'remet', 'remex', 'remiges', 'remigration', 'reminisce', 'reminiscing', 'remit', 'remix', 'remnant', 'remodel', 'remoisten', 'remonstrant', 'remonstrate', 'remonstrating', 'remonstration', 'remonstrative', 'remorid', 'remorse', 'remount', 'removable', 'removably', 'removal', 'remunerator', 'remythologize', 'remythologizing', 'renaissance', 'renal', 'renascent', 'renationalization', 'renationalize', 'renationalizing', 'rencontre', 'renegotiate', 'renegotiating', 'renegotiation', 'renew', 'renig', 'renin', 'renitencies', 'renitency', 'rennase', 'renographic', 'renormalization', 'renormalize', 'renormalizing', 'renovator', 'reobserve', 'reobserving', 'reoccur', 'reoffer', 'reoil', 'reoperate', 'reoperating', 'reoperation', 'reorchestrate', 'reorchestrating', 'reorchestration', 'reorder', 'reoxidation', 'reoxidize', 'reoxidizing', 'repaint', 'repanel', 'repaper', 'reparable', 'repartition', 'repatch', 'repattern', 'repay', 'repechage', 'repeg', 'repel', 'repertories', 'repertory', 'repetitious', 'repin', 'replace', 'replacing', 'replaster', 'replate', 'replating', 'replead', 'replenish', 'replete', 'repletion', 'repleviable', 'replevied', 'replevies', 'replevy', 'replica', 'replied', 'replier', 'replies', 'replumb', 'reply', 'reprehend', 'reprehensible', 'reprehensibly', 'represent', 'repress', 'reprice', 'repricing', 'reprieval', 'reprimand', 'reprint', 'reprise', 'reprising', 'reprivatization', 'reprivatize', 'reprivatizing', 'repro', 'reptant', 'reptile', 'reptilium', 'republish', 'repudiate', 'repudiating', 'repudiation', 'repulse', 'repulsing', 'repulsion', 'repulsive', 'repunctuation', 'reputable', 'reputably', 'requalification', 'requalified', 'requalifies', 'requalify', 'request', 'requiem', 'require', 'requiring', 'requisite', 'requisition', 'requite', 'requiting', 'reradiate', 'reradiating', 'reradiation', 'reraise', 'reraising', 'reran', 'reredos', 'rerelease', 'rereleasing', 'reremouse', 'rerig', 'reroute', 'rerouting', 'rerun', 'resalable', 'resaw', 'resay', 'rescale', 'rescaling', 'rescind', 'rescore', 'rescoring', 'rescuable', 'resee', 'resegregate', 'resegregating', 'resegregation', 'reseize', 'reseizing', 'resemblance', 'resensitize', 'resensitizing', 'reserpine', 'reservation', 'reserve', 'reservice', 'reservicing', 'reserving', 'reservist', 'reservoir', 'reset', 'resew', 'resid', 'resight', 'resilient', 'resin', 'resitting', 'reslate', 'reslating', 'resmelt', 'resocialization', 'resocialize', 'resocializing', 'resod', 'resojet', 'resoluble', 'resolve', 'resolving', 'resonance', 'resonator', 'resound', 'resow', 'respace', 'respacing', 'respade', 'respading', 'respeak', 'respect', 'respell', 'respelt', 'respiration', 'respire', 'respiring', 'respirometric', 'respite', 'respiting', 'resplendent', 'resplit', 'respoke', 'respond', 'responsible', 'responsibly', 'responsions', 'responsum', 'respray', 'resurface', 'resurfacing', 'resurge', 'resurging', 'resurrect', 'resuscitate', 'resuscitating', 'resuscitation', 'resuscitative', 'resyntheses', 'resynthesis', 'resystematize', 'resystematizing', 'retable', 'retag', 'retaliate', 'retaliating', 'retaliation', 'retaliative', 'retaliatory', 'retaste', 'retasting', 'retax', 'retch', 'rethink', 'rethought', 'retia', 'reticence', 'reticencies', 'reticency', 'reticle', 'reticuloendothelial', 'reticulum', 'retie', 'retighten', 'retinitides', 'retinitis', 'retinol', 'retinopathies', 'retinopathy', 'retinoscopies', 'retinoscopy', 'retinue', 'retitle', 'retitling', 'retouch', 'retrace', 'retracing', 'retrack', 'retract', 'retrain', 'retransform', 'retranslate', 'retranslating', 'retranslation', 'retread', 'retreat', 'retrial', 'retribution', 'retributive', 'retributory', 'retried', 'retries', 'retrievable', 'retrieval', 'retro', 'retry', 'retting', 'retwist', 'retying', 'reunification', 'reunified', 'reunifies', 'reunify', 'reunion', 'reunite', 'reuniting', 'reupholster', 'reusabilities', 'reusability', 'reuse', 'reusing', 'reutilization', 'reutilize', 'reutilizing', 'reutter', 'revaccinate', 'revaccinating', 'revaccination', 'revaluate', 'revaluating', 'revaluation', 'revalue', 'revaluing', 'revascularization', 'revel', 'revenge', 'revenging', 'revenue', 'reverie', 'revet', 'revictual', 'revisable', 'revisal', 'revisit', 'revisor', 'revisualization', 'revivable', 'revival', 'reviviscent', 'revocable', 'revoice', 'revoicing', 'revokable', 'revolve', 'revolving', 'revue', 'revuist', 'revulsion', 'revulsive', 'revving', 'rewan', 'rewax', 'reweave', 'reweaving', 'rewed', 'reweigh', 'rewet', 'rewiden', 'rewin', 'rewon', 'rewound', 'rewrite', 'rewriting', 'rewritten', 'rewrote', 'rewrought', 'rexes', 'reynard', 'rhabdocoele', 'rhabdom', 'rhabdovirus', 'rhachides', 'rhachis', 'rhadamanthine', 'rhamnus', 'rhaphae', 'rhapsodic', 'rhatanies', 'rhatany', 'rhenium', 'rheological', 'rheometer', 'rheum', 'rhinencephala', 'rhino', 'rhizobium', 'rhizoctonia', 'rhizoid', 'rhizoma', 'rhizome', 'rhizopi', 'rhizosphere', 'rhizotomies', 'rhizotomy', 'rhodium', 'rhodochrosite', 'rhodolite', 'rhodonite', 'rhodopsin', 'rhodora', 'rhomb', 'rhonchi', 'rhubarb', 'rhumb', 'rhyme', 'rhyming', 'rhyolitic', 'rhyta', 'rhytidome']
s: ['sferics', 'sforzandi', 'sforzando', 'sfumato', 'sgraffiti', 'sgraffito', 'sjambok', 'squab', 'squad', 'squalid', 'squalor', 'squamosal', 'squat', 'squaw', 'squeamish', 'squeezabilities', 'squeezability', 'squeeze', 'squeezing', 'squeg', 'squelch', 'squib', 'squid', 'squiffier', 'squiffy', 'squiggliest', 'squinch', 'squinnied', 'squinnier', 'squinnies', 'squinny', 'squoosh']
t: ['tchotchke']; 
u: ['ufologies', 'ufologist', 'ufology', 'uhlan', 'uintahite', 'uxorial', 'uxoricide']
v: ['vying']
w: ['wrack', 'wrang', 'wrassle', 'wrassling', 'wrastle', 'wrastling', 'wrath', 'wreak', 'wreck', 'wrest', 'wrick', 'wried', 'wrier', 'wries', 'wriggle', 'wrigglier', 'wriggling', 'wriggly', 'wring', 'wrinkle', 'wrinklier', 'wrinkling', 'wrinkly', 'wrist', 'wrong', 'wrote', 'wroth', 'wrought', 'wrung', 'wryer', 'wryly', 'wryneck', 'wryness']
x: ['xanthan', 'xanthic', 'xanthin', 'xanthophyll', 'xebec', 'xenia', 'xenic', 'xenodiagnoses', 'xenodiagnosis', 'xenograft', 'xenon', 'xenophile', 'xenophobe', 'xerarch', 'xeric', 'xerographic', 'xerophile', 'xerophilies', 'xerophilous', 'xerophily', 'xerophthalmia', 'xerophthalmic', 'xerophyte', 'xerophytism', 'xeroradiographies', 'xeroradiography', 'xeroses', 'xerosis', 'xerothermic', 'xerotic', 'xerox', 'xerus', 'xiphisterna', 'xiphoid']
y:  ['ycleped', 'yperite', 'ytterbium', 'yttrium']
z: ['zlote', 'zloties', 'zloty', 'zucchetto']
  • $\begingroup$ With which word list is this? $\endgroup$
    – TheAsh
    Jul 29, 2019 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know. I made it 10 years ago. Probably a very large one. Maybe enable.txt? $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2019 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ Anyway you can rerun it with the OWL4? $\endgroup$
    – TheAsh
    Jul 29, 2019 at 21:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.