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  LOGOLOG
a weblog of wordplay by Eric Harshbarger

Pangrammic Crossword

A pangram is a sentence or other string of text which contains at least one instance of every letter in the alphabet. There is plenty of information about pangrams out on the web. The most frequent challenge involving pangrams is trying to create the shortest, intelligible sentence which is pangrammic (obviously 26 letters is the lower bound here):
Quick zephyrs blow, vexing daft Jim. (29 letters)
Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs. (32 letters)
are both fine examples.

At my Fall 2005 Puzzle Party I included a pangrammic challenge which I had invented a couple of months earlier ("invented" in the sense that I had never seen the question posed before*).

Basically I asked for the tightest crossword grid that can be formed whose words are strictly pangrammic (using exactly 26 letters). For example:

    Q  
 F BOXY
 R UP  
ZILCH  
 D K V 
 G SWAM
JET  N 
This set of words (all valid in the 3rd edition of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary) is bounded by a 7x7 grid.

Can it be improved upon (such that the area of the bounding box is lessened)?

Yes... by a little bit, at least.

The best I have created is a 9x5 grid (45 area) which reads as:

 ZAG Q  F
JIB VOX L
 N   PUKE
 CRWTH  D
MY   S   
Again, all of these words can be found in the OSPD3.

No team at my Party was able to improve upon the example I had given in the Puzzle Booklet (a 9x7 grid), so no points were awarded for the problem. However, afterwards, one player, Bob Gillis, prompted by my suggestion of considering the word UNCOPYRIGHTABLE, found several more 45-area examples by fitting them all into a 15x3 grid. Here is one of his:

S  V   F   J  Z
UNCOPYRIGHTABLE
Q  X   D M W  K
Still, a score below 45-area has eluded us.

Anyone out there want to provide a tighter solution? Maybe a 7x6 grid? An 8x5?

...

About 12 hours after originally posting this entry, I found a better solution. The following is a 11x4 grid with all valid OSPD3 words:

 M B J  SUQ
COPYRIGHT  
 N   V  ADZ
 K FLEX W  
44 is now the score to beat...

-- Eric

* Oops. I should know better than to think I've come up with a new logolocial challenge. People have been doing this kind of stuff for longer than I've been alive; it's had to think of something new. Even more embarassing, I found a reference to Pangrammic Crosswords in a book that I own and highly recommend to all readers of this blog: Making the Alphabet Dance by Ross Eckler. Page 57 mentions this type of puzzle and gives examples from as far back as 1970. I am happy to say, however, that the area of my answers are smaller (I use a different word source).

[14 December 2005]
   
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