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Here's a classic for y'all.

Can you transform "phone" into "cord", using only single-letter alterations?

Rules

  • Each step can either add a letter, remove a letter, or change a letter.
  • Each step must be a word that is generally recognized as belonging to English and that 'most people' would know. (Adopted words are okay, but e.g. "bueno" is not. Latin names, e.g. "canis" are also not allowed. Extremely obscure words like "asci" are also out.)
  • Proper nouns (e.g. "Jill") aren't allowed unless they are also regular words also (e.g. "jack").
  • Contractions (e.g. "don't") and abbreviations of any form (e.g. "photo[graph]", "laser") aren't allowed. (Removed, per trolley813's observation.)
  • Words that you wouldn't want to explain to a five year old (e.g. "sex", "drat", "ascus") are not allowed.

(Yes, there are two specific words I have in mind with the last rule. If you know what they are, good for you; don't mention them. Keep it clean, please.)

A minimal solution is five steps (including the first and last step). It exists; can you find it? How many other chains that are ten steps or less can you find? (Unique, valid answers ten steps or less will be upvoted. The first valid, minimal answer will be accepted.)

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A five-step solution, using only common English words:

phone → hone → cone → core → cord

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    $\begingroup$ Well, that was quick. It clearly took you less time to come up with that than it took me. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Jun 5 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ This is the chain I came up with almost immediately upon reading the question (moments ago). $\endgroup$ – Jeff Zeitlin Jun 5 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ OMG i came up with too similar solution except used bone instead of cone, and I googled if if "hone" makes a meaningful word. Mine one was Phone -> hone -> bone -> bore -> core -> cord $\endgroup$ – Always Confused Jun 6 at 6:45
  • $\begingroup$ The same chain that came to my mind $\endgroup$ – QBrute Jun 6 at 20:32
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A answer

That's impossible (well, it was before Matthew dropped this rule)

Because

The word phone itself is an abbreviation of telephone. But abbreviations of any kind are not allowed, so we cannot even start!

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    $\begingroup$ Huh, I hadn't thought of that. That rule can probably be dropped; it's largely there to ban a specific word that is close to both "phone" and "cord" and also violates one of the other rules. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Jun 9 at 14:57
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As an example to help you get started, here is a ten-step chain I found:

phone → prone → prune → rune → run → rub → cub → cud → curd → cord

Here is another, similar chain (also ten steps):

phone → prone → prune → rune → rube → cube → cub → cud → curd → cord

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I know the optimal solution has been found, but:

Here's a 6-step solution.

phone -> shone -> shore -> sore -> core -> cord

Here's a 7-step solution.

phone -> phony -> pony -> pond -> fond -> ford -> cord

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    $\begingroup$ Very nice! I did say I was interested in other solutions as well as the minimal solution. It's neat to see folks come up with chains I didn't find. (I got stuck on either "prone" or "hone" as the only second steps; I love seeing other possibilities I missed!) $\endgroup$ – Matthew Jun 6 at 1:20

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