Alphabet Puzzles

Word construction puzzles based on alphabet characters.

Posted Mar 13, 2017

Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley/Shutterstock
Source: Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley/Shutterstock

We take the alphabet for granted, having become so accustomed to using it for reading and writing. Consider, though, that all writing systems started out as pictures of things. Our letters are derivatives of the original pictures, recast to allow spoken language to be written down. The alphabet characters in words stand for sounds. When we read them out loud, we can actually hear the sounds that the letters represent (more or less).

In this blog, I share 10 word puzzles that reveal how the letter-to-sound correspondence connects to meaning. Let’s do a sample together. You begin with a letter of the alphabet; in this case, B. You are then given clues in order. The idea is to add one letter, and only one, to the previous word, according to the clue. The position of every new letter will vary, of course.

B

(1) Exist

(2) Wager

(3) Hit, strike

(4) Sound made by sheep

Answer:

(1) BE

(2) BET

(3) BEAT

(4) BLEAT

Just to be sure the rules are clear, each clue requires you to add one letter to the previous word. So, E is the letter added to B according to clue (1): B+E = BE. T is added to BE according to clue (2): BE + T = BET. A is added to BET according to clue (3): BET + A = BEAT. Finally, L is added to BEAT according to clue (4): BEAT + L = BLEAT.

All words must start with the given letter — that is, no letter can be put before it in the chain.

As with my previous puzzles, you might come up with different answers than the ones I intended. I would love to hear from you if you come up with different answers.

I firmly believe that brain workouts like this one have positive effects in various domains of cognition. These puzzles should stimulate verbal recognition and semantic processes. Enjoy!

1. G

(1) Proceed

(2) Received

(3) Animal with backward curving horns

(4) Relish on someone’s misfortunes

2. H

(1) Pronoun that refers to a male

(2) Pronoun that refers to a female

(3) Perceive sounds

(4) The supposed organic seat of love

3. L

(1) Musical note

(2) Track circuit

(3) Plural form of the previous word

(4) Expire

4. M

(1) Pronoun used to refer to oneself

(2) Males

(3) Unkind, nasty

(4) Intended

5. P

(1) Colloquial appellation for father

(2) Usually accompanies a pot

(3) Sheet of glass

(4) Console

6. S

(1) Thus

(2) A musical note

(3) Type of fish

(4) Robbed

7. T

(1) A musical note

(2) Metal container

(3) Sharp point, prong

(4) One third of a circle, triple

8. W

(1) He, she, and I together

(2) Get married

(3) Fuse by heating

(4) Have power

9. Y

(1) Short for “you”

(2) Affirmative vote in the US Congress

(3) Twelve months

(4) Long for, desire

Answers Below

1. GO

GOT

GOAT

GLOAT

2. HE

HER

HEAR

HEART

3. LA

LAP

LAPS

LAPSE

5. ME

MEN

MEAN

MEANT

5. PA

PAN

PANE

PANEL

6. SO

SOL

SOLE

STOLE

7. TI

TIN

TINE

TRINE

8. WE

WED

WELD

WIELD

9. YA

YEA

YEAR

YEARN