It seems to have been enough time, now, for those who were going to send in solutions to have sent them. So, here is the solution to puzzle number three. The puzzle was solved by Scott, who once again first solved it himself and then wrote a computer program to power through and solve an optimal solution. I wondered if anyone would do that (I considered it myself to check my own solutions, but I decided it was too much work to figure out how to link in a dictionary database. Clearly, Scott is a little more computer-savvy than I), but I figured if somebody did do it, it would be Scott. Nice to know I was right...
Anyway, just as a reminder, the puzzle was to find a series of transitory words linking the following pairs:
1.) some -> curb
2.) bare -> bear
3.) dread -> pried
by changing one letter at a time.
For the first pair (some -> curb), Scott and I came up with the same solution, which is apparently one of three optimal solutions according to Scott's program:
some -> come -> core -> cure -> curb
The other two possible paths are:
some -> sore -> core -> cure -> curb
some -> sore -> sure -> cure -> curb
The second pair is a little more interesting, with Scott impressively coming up with one of two optimal solutions on his own (with the apparent help of a dictionary):
bare -> barm -> berm -> beam -> bear
Barm is the layer of yeast which floats on the top of fermenting alcohol, and berm is a bank of earth or other level surface set against a steep slope (like a terrace, if I understand correctly). Berm is also apparently a term used primarily in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana to refer to the shoulder of the road (which finally explains what word people were saying when I lived in western PA... four years and I never quite figured that out).
I had actually come up with the other optimal solution for this problem:
bare -> bark -> berk -> beak -> bear
but rejected it because I didn't think berk was a word. I guess I should have taken the time to look it up in a dictionary, because it apparently means a stupid person who is easily taken advantage of.
The third pair, both Scott and I again came up with the same solution, which in this case turns out to be non-optimal (his program came up with two optimal paths). The solution we came up with was:
dread -> tread -> triad -> tried -> pried
The two optimal solutions are:
dread -> dreed -> dried -> pried
dread -> dreed -> preed -> pried
I had never before heard both dreed and preed, but dreed is the past-tense of dree, which means to suffer or endure (it also is an adjective which means tedious or dreary). Preed is likewise the past-tense of pree, which means to try, test, or taste.
So, now my vocabulary has been expanded upon a little bit, and it is time for me to start thinking about puzzle number four.