Thursday, 5 April 2007

SURPRISING RESULT

I was, I must admit, a tad surprised that none of my readers - especially Gill and others who are good at word puzzles - made any attempt at solving the last puzzle posed on this blog...

In fact, I was actually wondering whether it was worth the bother of blogging the answer and then I thought: "Yes! I will! Because (a) history demands it, and (b) I haven't got anything else to blog about today!"

So, the puzzle was...

Find a nine-letter English word from which you can remove ONE LETTER at a time and always leave another NEW WORD.

And that word was---

STARTLING

And these are the words within the word---

STARTLING - STARTING
STAR
TING - STARING
ST
ARING - STRING
ST
RING - STING
S
TING - SING
SIN
G - SIN
SIN - IN
I
N - I

Maybe I should set an easier puzzle, such as one of Lewis Carroll's Doublets, a game which the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass devised at Christmas 1877 in order to entertain two young ladies - Julia and Ethel - with "nothing to do"!

Originally Lewis Carroll - or, as doubtless Julia and Ethel knew him, the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson - called his game Word Links and players were required to connect two "doublets" (words with the same number of letters, usually 3, 4 or 5) using linking-words each of which would differ from the preceding word by a single letter only and without any of the letters within the words being rearranged.

The winner of the game is the first player to achieve the transformation using the fewest number of links.

For example, as Lewis Carroll - himself the great panjandrum of topsyturveydom - showed, it was possible to turn HEAD to TAIL thus...

H E A D
H E A L
T E A L
T E L L
T A L L
T A I L

Carroll's game was taken up by the magazine Vanity Fair in 1879 under the name Doublets and, for a while, became something of a parlour sensation - the Victorian equivalent of Sudoku - with regular competitions and the inevitable arguments about whether or not words were permissible as links!

Lewis Carroll published a couple of pamphlets about the game and even compiled a glossary of 1,400 three- to six-letter admissable words. Later permutations on the game (usually without any acknowledgement to Lewis Carroll) have been known bu such names as Word Chains, Word Ladders and Stepwords.

If you care to try your hand at Doublets, you could have a go at...

Putting MILK into PAIL

Turning
WHEAT into BREAD

Making
FIRE produce HEAT

Using
BREAD to make TOAST

In all cases, players should follow Lewis Carroll's original instruction: "It is, perhaps, needless to state that it is de rigueur that the links should be English words, such as might be used in good society."

Of course you won't need them (or won't want them) but I'll blog the answers after Easter...

7 comments:

Scrooge said...

I think you neglect the lesson of your earlier postings. There are those, in this big wide world of ours, who like to better themselves and start the day with a gentle brain teaser or clever quiz (such as you might devise) to get the little cogs whirring again after a night of sleep.However, your readership are not amongst them. I, myself, stagger out of bed, stick on the kettle and then read your latest outpourings through a haze of sleep. This is not to say it is any less appreciated. Quite the contrary, it has become an essential and valued part of my day but audience participation is definately out at that time in the morning- unless its one of your smutty caption competitions of course :-)

Good Dog said...

Brian, oh boy, trying to get from Fire to Heat is... well, I'm on my fifth attempt so far. But I'm getting to words like wort and barm - er, okay - and then... starting again.

Brian Sibley said...

Hmmm... No 'wort' or 'barm' I'm afraid, but I'll give you a clue: there are four linking words between HEAT and FIRE and the first of them is a word that has a similar meaning as 'to rent'...

Chris said...

We call them Word Ladders over here across the pond. I give them to my students. Like CAT to DOG: CAT
COT
DOT
DOG
I'll have to try yours.

Good Dog said...

Brian, thanks for the tip.

So it's:

FIRE

HIRE

HERE

HERD

HEAD

HEAT

Would have posted earlier, but in the excitement of working it out I managed to knock over a glass of juice, a tube of Pringles and a stack of papers on the edge of the desk.

Should get more practice in. The Word Ladder is the puzzle I never do on the Evening Standard's games page.

Anyway, have a Happy Easter.

Brian Sibley said...

GILL writes to say...

Hi, I can do 4 letter ones; 5 is more difficult, have done one but fear it may not be strictly to the rules! Here goes...

Milk
Mill
Mall
Pall
Pail

Fire
Hire
Here
Herd
Head
Heat

Bread
Tread
Treat
Great
Groat
Roast
Toast

I give up on Wheat!

Brian Sibley said...

Well done GOOD DOG and GILL...

You have both correctly made FIRE produce HEAT...

And congratulations GILL on putting MILK into PAIL. Lewis Carroll's solution was MILL, PILL, PALL, but MALL seems to me to be perfectly acceptable.

However, I fear you went slightly awry on turning BREAD into TOAST because GROAT doesn't lead to ROAST...

So that one and WHEAT into BREAD are still up for solving!