Tips on Solving Word Ladder PuzzlesWord ladder puzzles - how do you go about solving them?
There are two distinct strategies that people tend to use. The first is to solve from top-to-bottom, whilst the other is to solve from bottom-to-top.
In truth, the best way to solve a wordladder is to try both approaches - some puzzles naturally seem to solve more easily from top to bottom and others vice-versa, for reasons that may not be immediately apparent.
Therefore if you get stuck trying to solve it one way, try to work from the other way up.
In fact, sometimes it is best to make inroads both way, and then try to get the two routes to meet in the middle.
Some of the trickiest puzzles to solve are actually those that have the most possible words one step away - where several letters can be swapped - as then there are more possibilities at each route of the ladder.
Some puzzles are naturally a lot harder than others too, in the sense that there can be many routes from top to bottom with some puzzles whilst literally only one (using commonish words anyway!) with others. However as mentioned above, sometimes ironically the less routes there are the easier the puzzle in that you may be forced down one particular solving route that actually works.
Remember that with word ladders you are always allowed one step where you don't get closer to the solution word, just as long as you don't get further away, because there is one more empty rung on the ladder than there are letters you need to change.
Thus if you need to change FOOD into GRUB then there are clearly a minimum of four steps needed, but you'll be provided with five steps on the ladder, so you can perform a shuffle whereby you get create a 'nicer' intermediary word that allows you to get closer to the solution.
Try to have a think about where the vowels are in the start word and the solution word, and if you can get the same arrangement of consonants and vowels at each position of the word as early as you can in the solving process: often this is the key step to solving success as shuffling the order of consonants and vowels is often quite a tricky step with it being hard to do that with many words.
Overall clearly a good vocabulary, experience of solving puzzles, working from top to bottom AND bottom to top, working out intermediary words and also considering vowel/consonant order are the key to solving word ladder puzzles. Good luck!
If you have any particular tips that you use to solve word ladders then please do add them in the comments below - we'd love to know how you go about tackling these fun puzzles.
Date written: 12 Jun 2012
Category: word puzzles
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