Hi! My solution 🙂
There aren't 36 rows in the solution, there are actually 42 rows, because NM & MN states are creating some duplicated words...
BTW, it only took 47 seconds to run 😉
Cool problem to solve. I only used one spatial tool in the whole thing (1 x Spatial Match) and I got 40 words.
A couple of them are repeats though which makes sense using Alabama instead of Louisiana and New Mexico instead of Minnesota. The repeats are Condemns, Makimono, Matronal, Monecian. If the technique used was the other way around to look at the words then see if that word could be made, then those duplicates may not have been found.
Essentially, I constructed every combination of 4 touching states and then sorted the letters alphabetically and compared those to the word list (sorted alphabetically).
I spent way too long on this.
My iterative macro first finds all pairwise touching states on the first pass, and subsequently drops the shapes and keeps finding the subsequent connected states using the pairwise combinations. Keeping the shapes really blows up the workflow and grinds it to a halt. I also gave the macro user the option of increasing the number of connected states, for the hypothetical situation where you had a list of 10 letter words, or 12, etc.