<i>SpecGram</i> Suzie!—Psammeticus Entertainment SpecGram Vol CLIII, No 4 Contents

Transform Puzzles I
Vaguely Linguistic Transforms

Jonathan van der Meer
l’École de SpecGram, London

The SpecGram puzzle team has decided to take break from all that “Linguistically-Themed Pseudo-Nihonese Puzzlicity” nonsense. I’ve taken control of the Puzzle Elves™ and instructed them to come up with some Quasi-Linguistic Pseudo-Anglic Puzzleness. And they have done so.

At first they tried to come up with a puzzle based on Transformational Grammar, but their best efforts all resulted in symptoms such as drowsiness, insomnia, and cranial hemorrhaging. We lost three otherwise perfectly adequate interns. So instead we settled for something else vaguely transformational. Known also as “Doublets”, “Word-links”, and “Word Ladder”, this puzzle is usually attributed to Lewis Carroll, though we doubt he could have been the first to think it up. Really, now.

The rules are quite simple: transform one English word into another of the same length, one letter at a time, with each intermediate form also being a valid English word. For example, dog may be readily converted to cat by these simple steps: dogcogcotcat.

For this first set of puzzles, we’re only going to slightly extend the basic notion: we’ll allow the word pairs to be of different lengths. So, in addition to changing a letter, adding or deleting a letter will also be permitted, when necessary.

Judging solutions to these puzzles will be harder than for previous puzzles, because there is no single correct answer. As a rule of thumb, shorter solutions are better than longer solutions, solutions without additions or deletions are better than those with, solutions with only additions or only deletions are better than those with both, solutions with common words are better than those with rarer words, solutions with only words that are clearly English are better than those with obvious loan words, and solutions with proper names are lame, but will be accepted (maybe). These guidelines are contradictory. Too bad for you.

This time around, eight vaguely linguistical word pairs will be offered. Reasonable solutions that do not require me to get my OED off the shelf for every single step will be eligible for a prizea SpecGram magnet. Solution submissions will be arbitrarily weighted based on the number of word pairs solved and the elegance of the balance of adhering to the various guidelines above. (Sigh. I’ve been forced to admit that you may submit up to two solutions per word pair, just in case your really short solutionwhich relies on a virtually unattested form of a word you found in the OED that is so archaic that Chaucer himself would have thought it a tad old and mustygets booted out.) If there are any tolerably good solutions, one or more winners will be chosen randomly (but weightedly, see above), and one or more prizes will be awarded.

Sample solutions (either my ownI already have them all done, yes; you don’t think I got this job based on my winning personality, do you?or the best of the submitted solutions) will be provided in the next issue, along with more soul-crushing transforms, and maybe some new rules.


The solution to the Masyu Ortograpiu II, from last time.

Your task for this puzzle contest:
  • transform oral into nasal
  • transform langue into parole
  • transform form into meaning
  • transform lingo into jargon
  • transform words into deeds
  • transform Bantu into Latin
  • transform NLP into reality
  • transform Spec into Gram
If you can figure any of them out at all, email your solution to SpecGam by April 15th, 2008. Solutions and prize winners will be revealed in the upcoming May 2008 issue.

Speaking of solutions, the solution to Masyu Ortograpiu II is at right. Those who submitted correct solutions and will get SpecGram magnets of their choosing include:

And if you are wondering whether this “Erik Gedeborg” is a real person, since he keeps winning, I wonder, too. But we got to send those magnets somewhere. If you have time to go to Sweden and verify his existence, please do so. If he turns out to be a SpecGram employee, forget that I asked.

SpecGram Suzie!—Psammeticus Entertainment
SpecGram Vol CLIII, No 4 Contents