Golomb's Gambits: Proper orders

The following puzzle first appeared in November 1996.

  1. GHOST is a five-letter English word whose letters are in strictly ascending alphabetical order. (That is, G precedes H, which precedes O, which precedes S, which precedes T, in the alphabet.) How many six-letter English words can you find with this property?

  2. TRIED is a five-letter word whose letters are in strictly descending alphabetical order. How many six-letter English words can you find with this property?

  3. ENDEARING is a nine-letter word whose letters are alternately earlier and later in the alphabet than their immediate predecessors. What is the longest English word that you can find with this property?

  4. Several members of the animal kingdom form verbal idiomatic expressions when followed by adverbs (or prepositions) of the type: up, down, in, out, on, off, around, about, along, away, with, etc. (Example: chicken out.) How many such expressions can you list?

[Solutions below]



  1. Common six-letter words with this property include ABHORS, ALMOST, BEGINS, BEGIRT, DIJOUX, BIOPSY, CHIMPS, CHINTZ.

  2. Some six-letter descending words are PONIED, SPOKED, SPONGE, TROKED, VOMICA, WOLFED. (There are surely others.)

  3. Twelve-letter alternating words include COMPARATIVES, COMPILATIONS, INCONTINENCE, PREPARATIONS. Thirteen-letter examples include INCONTAMINATE, INCONVINCIBLE, MISQUOTATIONS. There are surely other ones.

  4. Examples include horse around, kid around, monkey around, squirrel away, bear down, duck down, hound down, wolf down, rat on, bug out, chicken out, ferret out, pig out, weasel out, pony up, monkey with.

Did you find others?