Dodgson’s Doublets

March 20, 2009

Charles Dodgson was an English author, mathematician and logician of the nineteenth century; better known by his pseudonym Lewis Carroll, his most famous works are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the sequel Through the Looking Glass. In 1879, Carroll published the Doublets word game in the Vanity Fair magazine:

The rules of the Puzzle are simple enough. Two words are proposed, of the same length; and the Puzzle consists in linking these together by interposing other words, each of which shall differ from the next word in one letter only. That is to say, one letter may be changed in one of the given words, then one letter in the word so obtained, and so on, till we arrive at the other given word. The letters must not be interchanged among themselves, but each must keep to its own place. As an example, the word ‘head’ may be changed into ‘tail’ by interposing the words ‘heal, teal, tell, tall’. I call the given words ‘a Doublet’, the interposed words ‘Links’, and the entire series ‘a Chain’, of which I here append an example:

h e a l
t e a l
t e l l
t a l l

It is, perhaps, needless to state that it is de rigueur that the links should be English words, such as might be used in good society.

Write a program that takes two words and finds a chain between them. What is the chain that connects black to white?


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