Saturday, January 29, 2011

Found word of the day: AADMNRS

a type of roof. also, MANSARDED (adj)

As a bonus quiz:
MANSARD + B, G (2), O (2), and W

Thursday, January 27, 2011

B is for BINGO!

It's time again for the ABC Wednesday entry, where I try and cover some of the basics of competitive scrabble, while somehow trying to relate it to the current letter of the week...actually it's Thursday eve as I post this! Where does the week go?

When I say 'bingo', I'm not talking about the popular game of chance often found in church meeting halls. A bingo, in scrabble, is when a player is able to use all of their tiles in one turn, for which they are awarded an additional 50 points. It may not surprise you to know that in most cases, the player who is able to 'bingo' the most in a game is the player who will win. Better players are able to bingo an average of 2 or more times per game. In a recent record-breaking game, a player actually played all his tiles in 8 out of 9 of his turns! 

For most casual players, though, the idea of playing all of one's tiles seems like an unreachable goal. Fear not, though, it's not as difficult as you might think! Here's a few tips for getting there:

1. Start out with the assumption that there may actually be a word contained on your rack. The first hurdle to get over is to even look for longer words- there are plenty of ordinary words that you may not ever see, simply because you didn't try. Add to that the open letters on the board with which to play through, and there are unlimited possibilities. 

2. Look for common letter combinations. The most obvious of these is if you have ING on your rack. There are 3,628 ING words alone (made of 7 or 8 letters, and good in scrabble), so chances are you may be able to spot one. There are plenty other common 2 and 3 letter combos, which I'm sure you can figure out.

3. Balance your rack.  Balancing your rack means keeping a good blend of consonants and vowels, and not keeping too many high point tiles at once. The better you get at doing this, the more often you'll be able to bingo. I'll talk more about this in a future post.

4. Study words! Ok, most people may not be at the point where they're actually going to learn new words for the sake of playing scrabble. If you aren't there, you may just find it fun to write down all the letters from each turn and then after you play, use an anagram generator (a website that will find words for you) to look and see if you missed anything. If you are ready to study words for the sake of scrabble, you can do a search for 'high probability bingos' and find dozens of lists to start learning. The top of most of these lists will feature words that can be formed from the letters AEISNT or AEIRST.  

I'm going to close out with a few examples of bingos- click on the links below and see if you can find the answers before hitting the 'Forward' button.

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Quick tip...


On the other hand, UNDERBUD, not UNDERDUB*.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Public Service Announcement

There was much talk in the competitive scrabble world about
this game
and I thought it my duty to share it with you all. The skill and luck needed to make this happen are pretty astronomical, so check it out.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Found word of the day: AMOQSSUU

Trust me, I spared you by not showing the actual picture....


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A is for AA

It's time again for the ABC Wednesday entry, where I try and cover some of the basics of competitive scrabble, while somehow trying to relate it to the current letter of the week...

AA may look like a typing error, but it is actually a word. Pronounced 'ah-ah', it is a type of lava.
This brings up two important topics related to crossing over from becoming a 'living room' player to a competitive scrabble player:
1. Getting past the "that can't be a word because I've never seen it before" syndrome.
This is the most commonly heard sentiment from people who are just starting to play with higher level players. While there are many archaic, scientific, and otherwise unheard-in-normal-conversation words, the basis of their inclusion in the Scrabble dictionary is that they were found in one of the major dictionaries that exist. In fact, there's even a 'dictionary committee' if you'd like to take up a complaint. So just because you've never seen AA (or heard it, for that matter) doesn't mean it isn't a word. Instead of complaining about it, learn it and use it against your next opponent. When your family members decide to stop playing you, you can find plenty of places online that will give you competition.

2. Learning the 2 letter words is the first step to becoming a better scrabble player.

I did a quick search, and this site, while slightly dated, gives a pretty good overview of the 101 'twos'. I've read that learning the twos can actually raise your score by an average of 100 points. Who knows if this is accurate, but you'll definitely be able to play more overlapping words, which is one of the key ways to score more per turn. For example, if your opponent opens up with RETAINS, and you have AAEIMNT on your rack, you could play AMENTIA above it, creating 7 two letter words. Assuming you know the word AMENTIA, that is. Of course, more often it will be finding a spot to hook that last letter in your cool word so that it has a place to go on the board.
OK, here's a few more interesting A words:
lowest probability (7 letters): ASPHYXY asphyxia (unconsciousness caused by lack of oxygen)
longest scrabble word to contain 5 As: ANAGRAMMATICAL (ironically)
other interesting AA words:
BAA (to bleat) and AAL (an east Indian shrub) (good to know after you play AA and want to 'hook' another word to the front or end of it)
AALII a tropical tree
AAHING to exclaim in amazement, joy, or surprise
AARRGHH interjection used to express disgust (also AARGH and AARRGH) These ones come in handy for other reasons, also.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Link of the day

TileHead Blog is a more recent blog by a Florida player that mainly features interesting words and quotes.

If you like to know the meaning behind words, he does a great job of going into the origin and etymology of them, as well as listing longer words or extensions related to them.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I realize a lot of the people who read this blog are only casual players- and to you I say, "try playing competitively! It's lots of fun, and completely addictive!"

Even if you don't have a casual club or slightly more serious NASPA sanctioned club nearby, you can still play online, live, with  someone from somewhere around the world. I really think that playing with a time clock and the possibility of phonies adds a dimension to the game that is a lot more fun than just playing on Facebook in your spare time. (Though I do that, too.)

But back to the title- I played in a tournament this weekend, which was a lot of fun. (One more, link- you can see a list of upcoming tournaments here.) The interesting thing about playing in tournaments is that you tend to remember your mistakes a lot more vividly.

So if I had to list the top highlight and lowlight of this tournament, they would be as follows:

Challenged RUTILES (lustier, ruliest) in my first game, which is a pretty high probability bingo that I somehow didn't know. I was most likely going to lose the game anyways, but losing my turn caused my opponent to beat me by even more, which put a stain on my record for the rest of the tournament. (I finished 3rd out of 6, with a 4-2 record and a spread of -59. The 2nd place person was also 4-2 but had a positive spread.)

I didn't have any particular stellar play that stood out, but I felt like I played well in general, and a lot of the words I've studied/ learned over that last couple of years came in handy. I felt like I had an edge over most of the players as far as word knowledge (apart from the blunder above), and I hope to continue the trend next time.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Z is for Zyzzyva

I recently decided to start participating in a fun blog project that involves posts featuring the sequential letters of the alphabet.

So, for the time being, on Wednesdays I'll be blogging with a focus on certain letters, as well as talking a little about some of the basics of competitive scrabble. Stay tuned!

Zyzzyva is the most widely used word study program (as far as I know) when it comes to tournament scrabble players. Anytime you see words listed here, they are likely generated via the Zyzzyva program. As you may imagine, there are a lot of smart people who play competitive scrabble. (Yes, even smarter than me. I know, it's hard to believe.) So it goes to reason that there are more than a few computer programmers out there who have come up with useful software and websites to study words, analyze games, and even track tournament performance and rankings. I'll highlight some of these in other months when the right letter shows up.

The word zyzzyva itself (pronounced [ziz-uh-vuh], in case you were wondering) means 'a tropical weevil', and has the distinction of being the last word in the scrabble dictionary, as well as the least probable 7 letter word in scrabble. I'm pretty certain it has never been played in an official club or tournament game, as there would be much talk of it in the scrabble email list and blog world. (Yes, such a thing does exist.) It's so unlikely to be played because you would need the Z, both blank tiles, and both Y's to play it.
But let's get to some more Z words...

ZZZ used to suggest the sound of snoring [interj] This word was added the most recent edition of the scrabble dictionary. Not that it will ever be played by anyone, for the same reasons listed above.

ZA a pizza [n] This word was also added to the most recent edition, and is probably the most played Z word in scrabble. If you catch the triple letter score space right, you can score 60+ points for it.

ZANIEST and ZEATINS (a chemical compound found in maize) are the two most probable 7 letter "Z" words. In fact, the letters AEINST can be combined with every letter except J, Q, and Y to form a scrabble word. (more on that another time.)

A few of my favorite 4 letter "Z" scrabble words: ZOEA (a larval form of certain crustaceans), ZEBU (an asian ox), and ZORI (a type of sandal).

ZEE is the word which means the letter Z.

And to finish off, two awesome Z extension words (playable in scrabble if one word was already on the board):

ZWITTERIONIC and ZEPTOSECOND! A zeptosecond is a apparently a little longer than a yoctosecond. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Flashcard Follies

An unfortunate side effect of making your own flashcards (other than arousing jealousy amongst any passersby who see you studying them) is that you may occasionally botch one. I've had a few such incidents over the past few years, one which I chronicled here. That was the only time I managed to create a phony flashcard, though, as far as I know-  however, on a few occasions I've written one up and only later realized that I left off one of the words (almost always the more common one).
With that in mind, can you guess which word I left off the back of the FGHILNUS card?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Y is for YES!

Another blogger recently left some comments on my blog and turned me on to ABC Wednesday, a fun interactive blog that goes through the alphabet and encourages people to post on whatever the relative letter happens to be that particular week... 

A blog that focuses on words and letters? YES! Sign me up! So for as many Wednesdays as I'm able, I'll be focusing on whatever letter is featured that week, from a scrabble point of view. 

So here are a few Y-related words and their definitions, all of which are 'good' (good, in scrabble terms, means acceptable according to the TWL, or Tournament Word List):

WYE  the letter Y [n] (anagram= YEW)  Most of the letters have a word form to them, my favorite being H. But you'll have to wait a few weeks for that one.

SYZYGY the configuration of the earth, moon, and sun lying in a straight line.[n] This is the shortest good word that uses three Y's.  also SYZYGAL and SYZYGIAL (adj)

YA you [pron] is the first Y word in the scrabble dictionary. Incidentally, learning all the legit two letter scrabble words is considered to be the first step to becoming a scrabble addict, er, I mean, improving your score.

YWIS certainly [adv] is the last word. It's an alternate spelling of IWIS. 

There are a few other Y words that are also like this (in that there isn't a vowel after the Y):
YCLAD clothed [adj]
YCLEPED or YCLEPT called; named [adj]
YLEM hypothetical matter from which elements are derived [n]
YPERITE a poisonous gas [n]
YTTERBIA and YTTRIA a chemical compound [n]
YTTRIUM a metallic element [n]

and finally, I'm going to list what scrabble players call an 'extension', which is a word that you would only be able to play in scrabble by extending an existing word on the board:


according to google, it's one septillionth of a second. It is now my dream to be able to play this word during a scrabble game.

Thank you for spending quite a few yoctoseconds if you've made it this far down the page.

4 Things I learned at club last night

1. If you only have time to play one game, and you lose it, it's kind of depressing.

2. FOILERS* is not a word. Learn an anamonic for OILERS + ? here.

3. DIURETICS + DIORITIC does not equal DI(OR)ETICS*. (luckily it stayed on the board)

4. If you're trying to block your opponent from bingoing, block the most likely spot first. In other words, worry less about a line that contains a Q and more about one that requires a 7 letter word starting with S.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Oh, the irony...

ACELNNO on my rack, and the first thing I see is NONLACE*

Definition of ALENCON: a needlepoint lace.

Maybe that'll help me remember it, with all the needlepoint terminology knowledge that I have.