The game of Word Link, devised by the author, is played as follows.
To begin the game, the moderator gives the contestants a starting word and an ending word; each contestant gets the same pair of words. The object of the game is to construct a sequence of words linking the starting word with the ending word, subject to the following requirements:
1. All words in the sequence must be valid English words, as evidenced by appearing in some predetermined dictionary.
2. Except for the starting word, every word in the sequence, including the ending word, must be derived from the previous word by exactly one of the following operations:
— a. Change one letter (but not multiple copies of the same letter). For example, changing the “c” in “cat” to “h” results in “hat.”
— b. Add one letter at the beginning, end, or anywhere within the word. For example, adding an “s” to “pat” can result in “spat,” “past,” or “pats,” depending on where it is added.
— c. Remove one letter. For example, removing the “t” from “stand” results in “sand.”
— d. Move one letter. For example, moving the “s” in “spin” to the end of the word results in “pins.”
— e. Interchange two letters. For example, interchanging the “a” and the “i” in “dairy” results in “diary.”
The first contestant to construct a valid sequence of words linking the starting word with the ending word is the winner.
After a contestant has completed his (or her) word sequence, he alerts the moderator to that effect (e.g., by raising his hand), and submits his entry. If the moderator judges that contestant’s word sequence is valid, he (the contestant) is declared the winner; otherwise, he is disqualified. The other contestants continue to work on their word sequences until a winner is announced.
If the moderator judges that the starting word and ending word are particularly difficult to link, he may declare a letter to be a wildcard. In that case, in addition to the one allowed operation, any number of the wildcard letters may be added to and/or removed from the word in going from one word to the next in the sequence. For example, if “e” is declared to be a wildcard, one could go from “employee” to “ploy” by removing the “m” (the one allowed operation) as well as all occurrences of the letter “e” (the wildcard letter).
For the benefit of spectators, the contestants can construct their word sequences on whiteboards rather than using pen/pencil and paper. If the necessary equipment is available, the contestants can build their word sequences on computers so that the word sequences of all of the contestants are projected on the same screen as they are being built.
As I write this, we are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which requires physical distancing and in some cases isolation. Word Link does not require any physical interaction between the players, only the exchange of information, so it can be played remotely.