by Ross Eckler
Word Ways, 1988


The August 1979 Word Ways article "Word Roots and Branches" showed how the 17-letter Websterian word ANTICEREMONIALIST could be successively transdeleted down to a single letter: remove E and rearrange the remaining 16 letters to obtain NONMATERIALISTIC, remove N and rearrange the remaining 15 letters to obtain RECITATIONALISM, and so on Unfortunately it was necessary to include one non-Websterian word, RECLAMATIONIST (used in a 1946 Saturday Evening Post article) in the sequence.

From their appearance, such sequences can be properly termed transdeletion pyramids. It has been conjectured that no transdeletion pyramid exists consisting entirely of boldface entries from Webster's Second or Third editions. However, if one also allows inferred forms (noun plurals, past tenses of verbs, participles, comparatives and the like), Kyle Corbin of Raleigh, North Carolina has shown that an all-Webster transdeletion pyramid of this size is possible to construct:

		A N T I C E R E M O N I A L I S T
		 N O N M A T E R I A L I T I E S
		  O R N A M E N T A L I T I E S
		   I N T E R L A M I N A T E S
		    M A T E R N A L I T I E S
		     M A T R I L I N E A T E
		      T R I L A M I N A T E
		       T E R M I N A L I A
		        L A T I M E R I A
		         M A T E R I A L
		          T A L I E R A
		           R E T A I L
		            A L T E R
		             R A T E
		              T E A
		               A T

He has also constructed a second transdeletion pyramid, having no words in common with the first, in which only one word is not locatable in Webster's Second or Third: INTERNATIONALISE, a British spelling found, for example, in Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary. This is presented below.

		M E T A N I T R O A N I L I N E S
		 I N T E R N A T I O N A L I S E
		  I N T E R L I N E A T I O N S
		   R E N O I N T E S T I N A L
		    I N T E N E R A T I O N S
		     I N T E R N A T I O N S
		      S A N T O R I N I T E
		       I T I N E R A N T S
		        T R A N S I E N T
		         S T R A I T E N
		          N A S T I E R
		           A R I S E N
		            R A I N S
		             S A R I
		              S I R
		               I S

Can anyone construct an all-Webster transdeletion pyramid starting with a word of 18 letters? In the May 1986 Kickshaws, Will Shortz presented a German transdeletion pyramid starting with a 19-letter wordm, GUTSARBEITERZEUGNIS, meaning "farm worker's report". Note that this even contains the relatively intractible letter (at least in English) Z!

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