Magazine article Word Ways

Doublets

Magazine article Word Ways

Doublets

Article excerpt

A selection from Richards' book Victorian Enigmas and Sherlockian Puzzles.

Doublets

It is rare that one can pinpoint when a puzzle or game is created. Lewis Carroll created this entertainment on Christmas Day, 1877, for two little girls who "found nothing to do." He 1878 he issued a pamphlet entitled "Word-Links" and after publishing the idea in Vanity Fair it appeared as a small book, in 1879, under the name of "Doublets." (A detailed discussion of doublets, with facsimiles of the originals, appears in Martin Gardner's book about Carroll, The Universe in a Handkerchief.)

The idea of Doublets is familiar to us today. One starts with two words of the same length and tries to transform the first into the second with a chain of intermediate words, each word differing from the previous by replacing exactly one letter. Carroll gave the example:

APE--ARE--ERE--ERR--EAR--MAR--MAN

It is desirable to have the minimum length chain but that is not our goal. (Carroll's example can be improved to APE--APT--OPT--OAT--MAT--MAN). We will give you hints for the links in the chains to make the task easier. You are free to improve upon these chains.

"Over the oak ... under the elm"--MUSG

OAK

--fool

--peculiar

--letter

--gnome

ELM

"Its somewhat ambitious title was 'The Book of Life'"--STUD

BOOK

--crow

--cheer

--crowd

--cleft

--crawling

LIFE

"Cyanea! Behold the Lion's Mane!"--LION

LION

--outline

--color

--act

--dig

MANE

"He was known in the trade as Black Peter"--BLAC

BLACK

--stop

--coalitions

--daubs

--servant

--argues

--sheds

--spies

--specks

--serves

--scansion

PETER

"John H. …

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