Magazine article Word Ways

Isolanos

Magazine article Word Ways

Isolanos

Article excerpt

In the February 1969 issue, Rudolph Castown conjectured that there are no isolanos (n-letter words with which no words have exactly n - 1 crashes) for n less than five. This would imply that in the word ladder game every pair of four-letter words can be transmuted, one to the other, e.g., LEAD to GOLD via READ, ROAD, GOAD. I thought the conjecture unlikely and was confident that I even had some three-letter isolanos in GNU, OVA, EBB and EMU, but Webster's Third listed GAU, AVA, EBO and EME as garbles. IMP fared even worse, so I sent some four-letter candidates to the editor: INCH, JINN, OYEZ, UGLY, TAXI, ONCE, HYMN and ENVY. He disposed of them with ITCH; JINX; OYER, AGLY; TAXT, TALI, TARI; ONCA, ONDE, ANCE; HYEN; INVY. I decided to spare the editor more spadework and attacked the big Webster's myself. I failed with KIWI and LYNX, but found my isolano in LLYN (a lake). …

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