Pentominoes As Letters

This page is more about wordplay rather than geometry. Both topics are of interest to me, so this short article should not be a great surprise.

The fact that the twelve pentominoes are assigned 12 letters of the alphabet for easy distinction (as below):

leads to a very obvious question: what is the longest word that can be formed using only "Pentomino Letters"?

"Word" is a rather subjective, um, word... but let's not get too technical. I'll settle for an entry in Webster's Third New International Dictionary.

These types of puzzles can be facilitated greatly by using searchable Dictionaries-on-CDs and such, but I always like to at least start considering them using only my inherent vocabulary (and simply checking them against the dictionary).

Having only two vowels (and the "I" and "U", at that) is not very helpful, but some words come pretty easily: ZIPPY, FUZZY, and such.

Turns out FUZZY's adverbial form works as well: FUZZILY.

FLUFFILY is even better ("in a fluffy manner" reads the dictionary... um, okay).

That's eight letters long... now it starts getting tougher...

Allowing hyphens in the words, WILLY-NILLY is a nice find. And LILLYPILLY is good with no hyphen.

But what about PITIFUL?

Only seven.

And PITIFULLY? Yep, that's good.

Nine letters long.

And finally, it turns out, UNPITIFULLY is a valid word as well (a synonym of PITILESS).

So, that's as far as I've gotten without writing a program to scan word lists. I'll update the page after I do that. In the meantime, if anyone thinks of any more pentomino words 11 letters or longer, please let me know.

- Eric Harshbarger, 12 January 2005

P.S.: all of the examples above repeated at least one of their letters. What's the longest pentomino word you can think of that does not use a letter more than once? Obviously 12 letters long is the theoretical maximum -- and that is also clearly impossible. The best I can see is the 6-letter-long: UPLIFT.

Update: friend, Tracy Cobbs, discovered UNFITLY... a no-repeat 7 letter word.

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