A contest which appeared in the October 2000 issue of GAMES Magazine.

This contest challenged readers to find the longest set of 13 words, such that:

  • Each word on the list contained the letters of the corresponding spelled-out number, from one to thirteen, but not in consecutive order (so sixpence would not be allowed for six, nor thrones for one).
  • The letters at the beginning and end of the 13 words were all different (that is, all 26 letters of the alphabet appeared at the beginning or end of one of the words).

(Technically, the contest gave you a score equal to the number of different letters at the beginnings and ends of the words, with total length of all the words as a tiebreaker. But I suspected from the start that getting all 26 different letters would be possible, and therefore it was just a matter of who could do it with the longest words.)

I was somewhat disappointed when I realized that this meant, largely, that it would be a matter of who could fit more of the longest words in NI3 into their word lists. I thought it would have been more of a challenge to try to get all those different letters at the beginnings and ends of words and the letters of the numbers within the words while using the shortest words possible.

But, newly equipped with the CD-ROM version of this great old dictionary, I pressed ahead, and eventually came up with an entry that totaled 234 letters. I could have kept searching for longer combinations, but faced with no easy way of extracting the word list from the dictionary, and thus no way to do an entirely programmatic search of the solution space, I gave up and sent in what I had.

I should have kept searching longer. Tenth runner-up (the last T-shirt winner) used just 237 letters, and the grand prize winner was Kyle Corbin, with 258 letters.

Presumably all the top entries used pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosises (47 letters), one possible plural of pneumono...coniosis, not explicitly listed in NI3 but admitted under a rule which allows plural forms implied by the patterns of other words. While most -osis words pluralize to -oses, some (including one of the pneumoconiosis variants which this coinage was patterned on) pluralize to -osises. I wasn't 100% sure it would be allowed, so I sent in a second entry with the singular pneumo...coniosis, but it was in fact accepted. Since the next longest valid words only have about 30 letters, it was going to be very difficult to even be in the running without this word.

Interestingly, the winning entry bore more similarity to an earlier list of mine, the end result of my first attempt to make a 26-letter list with the longest words possible, which used only 209 letters, than it did to my final entry.

Among the other words appearing in the winning entry which also appeared in one or more of my lists were microspectrophotometrically (27 letters, for three), quiverleaf (10 letters, for five), oversentimentalizing (20 letters, for eleven), velvetweed (10 letters, for twelve), and trinitrophenylmethylnitramine (29 letters, for thirteen).