Scaling a Word Ladder to Success!


If I challenged you to transform the word ROCKS into the word SPARK, could you do it? By changing one letter at a time, making a new word every time, five changes would complete that chain of words.


Congratulations, you’ve chipped away at those rocks, created a spark, and ignited a puzzly fire! Not only that, but you’ve just built yourself a Word Ladder.

Word Ladders, also known as Changawords, word-links, laddergrams, doublets, word golf, and numerous other names, have been around in their current form for nearly a hundred and forty years. Lewis Carroll is credited with creating them, publishing a series of them in Vanity Fair magazine and a collection of them under the name Doublets.


For example, in Doublets he challenged solvers to connect CAIN to ABEL. He did it in nine steps. Can you match him, or beat him?

Can you turn TEARS into a SMILE in six steps?

As you can see, there’s often a theme or connection linking the words. Some Word Ladders connect anagrams (like SEAT to SATE) or semordnilaps (like WOLF to FLOW). Others connect two words in a phrase (like TRUE to BLUE) or link two words in the same category (like LION to LAMB if the theme were “Mammals”).

They can vary in word length as well as in number of steps between words. Often (but not always), the fewer steps, the easier the solve.

But, as it turns out, solvers continue to add new variations and wrinkles to the established format.

Image converted using ifftoany

Sunday’s New York Times crossword puzzle featured Word Ladders as themed answers, but these Word Ladders actually formed coherent sentences! 92 Across, for instance, was clued “Boisterous oaf confused the previous set of actors.” And you’d have to be a pretty savvy solver to come up with LOUD-LOUT-LOST-LAST-CAST as the word ladder that fits the clue!

And the constructor, Joe Krozel, kindly offered a few bonus Word Ladders for solvers to unravel. Can you crack them all?

1. Table tennis: For ages, the only joy in my life.

2. Unspeaking inspirer will simply have to communicate in taunts.

3. Upon removing the strap, Mr. Rogers dashed away from his snow vehicle and glided.

4. Sell contraband to a flock of Jerry Garcia fans with intensity.

5. Audacious poet (with signs of aging) outlaws military conflict.

How many successful Word Ladders can you build? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you!

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1 thought on “Scaling a Word Ladder to Success!

  1. Pingback: It’s Follow-Up Friday: Word Ladders edition! | Blog

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