Word Compounds

Word Compounds are an atomic solve path element in which two words are combined in some way to form a new word or phrase. This can be done in the same way as compound words, but more often contains a twist that changes the result of the combination in a way before arriving at the final result.

Word compounds are also a form of transformation, with two or more strings being turned into a single new string.

Puzzle Application[edit | edit source]

Combining words into other words is, by itself, extremely common. Compound words exist for a reason, and are sometimes used as subjects for puzzles all on their own, with nearly any puzzle involving 'Words that come before X' or 'Words that go after X' will use them in some capacity.

Words that come before BALL: BASE, BASKET, EYE, FIRE, FOOT, SCREW, SNOW

However, most uses of Word Compounds instead use alternative ways of combining words into new ones. Some will even use several of these methods at once in order to stretch the limits of the concept. The more popular and common of these methods are listed below.

Word Sandwiches[edit | edit source]

A word sandwich occurs when two words are combined by wrapping one word around the other. There are no strict rules about balancing the amount of a word on either side of the word being sandwiched, but there should always be at least one letter on either side. Otherwise, it's just a compound word.


Gained and Lost Letters[edit | edit source]

Sometimes, Word Compounds are formed just like compound words, by sticking two words together side by side. They are then, however, altered by the removal of one of the letters or the addition of an extra letter in between the the original words. These additions and subtractions are similar to transaddition/subtraction, without the anagramming portion.


Anagrams[edit | edit source]

Another way to keep the words in compound word order without forming a compound word is by anagramming either or both of the initial words. This method is a little bit more difficult to use well, as it's only a step away from fully anagramming both words together. This method may be best used in cases where multiple words could be formed by fully anagramming the words, but only one can be formed if each is anagrammed separately.


Letter Swaps[edit | edit source]

Some Word Compounds are achieved by swapping letters during the combination process. This can be in the form of swapping individual letters with new letters, or swapping the positions of two letters within the resulting compound. The former has a lot of free reign, functionally allowing for any words that can be almost split into two separate words if it weren't for a single letter. The latter is much more difficult to implement. Words that can have two letters swap positions to become a true compound word aren't overly common, but if a puzzle does manage to use this effectively, it can make for a unique solving experience.


In hunt puzzles, this element is often presented as sets of clues, allowing solvers to both solve clues to get the component words and solve clues to get the eventual results. This also has the benefit of providing a way for solvers to check and sort their results should they choose to focus entirely on the component clues.

Strategy[edit | edit source]

Identification[edit | edit source]

Word Compounds are a very content-focused element, and as a result the use of them in a puzzle is unlikely to be noticed by way of visual indications or hints in flavortext or title. Instead, solvers should focus on the content of the puzzle itself. Word Compound-based puzzles tend to involve list of words (or lists of clues), possibly in two distinct sets. This may be reminiscent of Connecting Sides, but without the connectable points next to each entry (although Connecting Sides is a good option for combined used with Word Compounds thanks to a shared reliance on pairs of words). What's more, Word Compound puzzles tend to use sets of words with identical lengths, particularly if one set of clues is meant to represent the final results. By having all results be the same length, and all component words be the same length as each other, it removes the ability for solvers to shortcut the puzzle by finding words that could only be made by combining two specific-length words. If you're solving a set of clues like this, and find that they're all the same length, consider whether this element might be present.

The one common-ish way of puzzles hinting their use of Word Compounds in flavortext or titles is by including phrases or pairs of words that can have their specific method of combination applied to them, such as in the example below 'Try and Eat'.

Solving[edit | edit source]

Since many of these puzzles are designed to discourage taking shortcuts in the matching process, other aspects should be focused on first. If possible, the best first step is to look at the collection of possible 'result' words. If they're in clue form, solving them could give a serious leg up on identifying the component words. Larger words often only have a couple ways to be broken down into component words, so identifying them and breaking them into their compounds will usually be easier than scanning through a larger list of components to see what could combine to form valid words.

The difficulty in the above strategy comes when a puzzle uses any of the special methods for creating Word Compounds. If there are hints in the flavortext or title to how the puzzle works, attempt that method in reverse on one of the result words. If it works, you can probably apply it to all of the other words in that set. If there aren't any hints, you may have to bite the bullet and dip into the component clues as well. Once you find a pair of words that seems like it shares a large portion of its letters with one of the results, try to figure out how to get from A + B to AB. Once that change is cracked, you can start applying it to the other results you have.

Another possible roadblock is that the result clues may be intentionally ambiguous, preventing a quick solve via working backwards. In this case, there's not a lot of other options besides solving what you can, writing down your answers, and doing some experimentation.

Notable Examples[edit | edit source]

  • Try and Eat (GPH 2018) (web) - This puzzle has the rare benefit of containing an example of how it works in the title. TRY and EAT can be sandwiched together to form the word TREATY. Similarly, all of the component words in this puzzles are three letters long, and the results are all six letter words. The flavortext and general theme of the puzzle (Eaters and things being eaten) also point heavily to sandwiched words being important.
  • If You Give... (Silph 2021) (web) - As indicated by the title, this puzzle is modelled after the book If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, and each 'clue' describes the result of giving someone (or something) something else. However, if you read the two words like how they'd appear in the book (like giving X a Y), the compound (with the A in the middle) forms a new word.
  • Bugcat (Huntinality 2022) (web) - An animal-themed use of lost-letters-based Word Compounds. In it, a set of ambiguous clues are given, whose answers can be formed by taking two animals as a compound and dropping a single letter. Uniquely, the animals are presented as front/back hybrids in picture form!

Other Uses[edit | edit source]

  • To do TO DO

See Also[edit | edit source]