Word Ladders

Word ladders are created by starting with any two words with the same number of letters, and attempting to link them together using a series of other words, each of which changes only one letter from the preceding word. Here is an example of a ladder that takes us from MIND to GAME:

Mind Game Word Ladder

The above is not an ideal word ladder, because it takes five steps to change four letters. However, in this case, I still find it preferable to using the uncommon word “gane.”

A simple game of word ladders can be played alone or with a small group of people by choosing any two words and racing to connect them in the shortest number of steps. Alternatively, players can take turns challenging each other with particularly difficult word pairs, which may take a long time to solve, or prove to be impossible. This game was invented by Lewis Carroll, who called it “Doublets.”

Word Ladder Squares

There are many possible word ladder variations. In a word ladder square, each of the rows and each of the columns is a word ladder.

Word Ladder Square

Although the above uses two uncommon words, each of the rows and columns is an ideal word ladder, making this a perfect word ladder square, as defined (pdf) by James Puder.

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