Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Highly Probable

So since I got a laptop for Christmas, I've actually been using Zyzzyva for most of my word study, rather than the flashcard pile from my dashboard. Of course, for the most part, my method of adding words to my 'cardbox' has still been pretty random- anytime I see a word I don't know, I'll pretty much add it. Words that I miss when I review my games also get added, and I've been going through the 4s to see what I don't have down. Over the last few years, by virtue of probability, I've learned most of the highest probability seven letter words, either by going through the stems or just learning them when I've missed them.

However- I realized that maybe I should start looking at lists of the most probable words and seeing if there are any on there I don't know- so I whipped up a list of the top 1000 sevens. I wasn't surprised that most of them are ones I've already come across. But there were a few in there (mostly ones that don't fall under the 'top bingo stem' category) that I'm pretty sure I've never even seen played. In fact, I was playing a podcast friend on Facebook the other day and he played the first one in this list, which was part of the inspiration to look them up:
TOADIED / IODATED (didn't know either of these could end with D instead of S)
Ah well, these are all in my cardbox now, so I can't rely on my previous strategy of throwing my opponents off by incorrectly challenging words like these and then playing much less probable words later on in the game to confuse them.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

F is for FISHING

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. Up this week: F!

Fishing, in scrabble, is the (usually erroneous) practice of playing only 1 or 2 tiles for very few points in the hopes of 'fishing' out the tiles from the bag that will give you what you're looking for on your next turn.

This often results in NOT getting exactly what you were looking for, in which case, the temptation is often to 'fish' again, and before you know it, you have a string of turns in which you've racked up single digit scores and your opponent has racked up a double digit lead.

So for the most part, if you are making a two tile play, make sure it's one that scores decently! (i.e. 20 points or more) You'll have to use a parallel play and one of the premium tile squares for this to happen, usually. 

There are a few instances, however, when fishing is acceptable or even the best play. Here are just a few examples:

1. You have a rack such as AEINQST, (and there's no U to play through- can you find the word?), and there are no places to play the Q for a lot of points. You're still usually better off just playing Q(I) somewhere (yes, even for only 11 points) and keeping the rest of the letters. In this case, your chances of 'bingoing' on your next turn are very high.

2. You are losing by 50 or more points, and there are very few tiles left in the bag. You realize that the only way for you to win the game at this point is to figure out what tiles might be in the bag, and play off the right tiles on you rack in order to bingo. With just the right luck (and skill at setting up spots to bingo on the board), you can come back and win the game.

3. You have a dream word, say 'QUIXOTRY' that you've always wanted to play, and you have IOQUX already on your rack, so you play off the other two tiles in the hopes ofgetting a T and Y and playing through an R on the board.

Ok, actually example number 3 is pretty silly, but it actually happened during one of the highest scoring scrabble games on record. 

There are other times when fishing is acceptable, but the general rule is: don't do it.

I will leave you with a poster of all the 7 and 8 letter '-FISH' words that are currently acceptable in scrabble. It's actually for sale on cafepress and was done by a very talented scrabble player/ artist. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Things I learned at club this week

1. PIANO takes a front AND rear hook of FORTE. (Didn't help though, since it was her opening play at 8D)
2. AELNOTY has an anagram. (Knew this, totally missed it. Fortunately I had 4 bingos otherwise.)
3. BUB is good. I've seen this a bunch of times reviewing the 3s, but that's easy when Zyzzyva shows you BBU. It's one of those rare 3s I've never played and so I started doubting myself on it. Got a 3 you've surprisingly never played? It would have been a great out play, luckily this wasn't a tournament because it would've cost me a lot of spread.
4. Missed GOOZ through an A to the TWS for 78 points. Very bad.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Found Word of the Day: AAFLLNOV

FLAVANOL  a derivative of flavone
A couple things to note:
and.... FLAVOPROTEIN(S)!!!!
Hershey's 'Special Dark' chocolate may be the worst chocolate I've ever tasted. The only reason I ate it was because it was free, and even then I felt ripped off.
I partly salvaged it by eating it with strawberries and tequila. Even regular Hershey's chocolate tastes better.
I'm no graphic design expert, but did they do an awful job with the word spacing on that little circle or what?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


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. Up this week: E!

No, I'm not talking about this kind of extension: 

I'm talking about extending plays that are already on the board. It can often be a pretty basic play, such as adding -ING to a word to extend it to a double or triple word score. In fact, the most useful extensions are ones involving extending a five letter opening play by three letters to hit the triple word score. (These are sometimes called 'snapbacks' due to the manner in which they allow you to 'snap back' your score.) 

Say your opponent plays ZINGS to open. If they're smart, they'll put the Z on the double word score, and score 50 points. If you're lucky, you'll be able to play GLA(ZINGS), GRA(ZINGS), or SEI(ZINGS) to come back with 50+ points yourself.

Of course, the expert players will often memorize obscure ways to extend words just for the rare chance to actually make the plays. I've read about players making plays such as 
GASPER(EAUX), LAMB(REQUINS), and PACLIT(AXEL). Ok, actually the last one is one of my dream plays, but the first two are legit. On the other hand, I did get to make this play a while ago. There are also plenty of front-extensions, I just am up too late at night to be able to come up with them.

Bottom line: don't forget to look for possible ways to extend words already on the board, rather than just adding your own.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Found word of the day: ADEGILSS

Ah yes, nothing gets you through trying to get your three kids to finish all their valentines like some good beer. (Or so I assume, I actually don't like beer.)

GLISSADE to perform a gliding dance step (takes a D, R, and S)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Some PHYL- words...

Some shorter ones (which are what got me started on this):

PHYLA, plural of
PHYLUM, a taxanomic division- also PHYLAR

PHYLAE, plural of
PHYLE, a political subdivision in ancient Greece- also PHYLIC

Of course, there's the delicious PHYLLO, very thin pastry dough (also FILO, FILLO)
but here are the cool extensions:


That's not all of them, feel free to post your favorite that I left out.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Found word of the day: CENOPSY

Found: on an ironically outdated safety poster in my office.
Definition: 'the contraction of a word by omitting one or more sound from the middle' (What? Oh, well, the secondary definition is in use in this case:) 'brief loss of consciousness'.
Also: SYNCOPAL (cool, two fours!), SYNCOPIC
Add an S and you get PYCNOSES as well as the plural. heh heh, PYCNOSES.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


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. Up this week: D!

OK, actually in addition to the Double Word Score spots, you should keep an eye out for all the 'hot spots' on the board- easy to find because they're highlighted in a different color. This is important, because you may find a great word to play, but if it's not going over one or more the hot spots, you probably aren't going to score very well with it. 

Another simple thing you can do is to look for the double and triple letter score spaces (or DLS and TLS as we scrabble nuts like to call them)- and try and find a way to play high-point tiles on them. Better yet, play through two hot spots at once! For example, using the word QUIET, if the Q is on a TLS and the T ends on the DWS (I'll let you figure that one out) space, you'll score 68 points. Not too shabby.

Enough on that though. Here's some interesting D words:

DEE  the letter D [n]
DUH  used to indicate that something just stated is too obvious [interj]

DIDO a mischievous act [n]
DIDY a diaper [n]

and some longer ones...

lowest probability: DUMDUMS a type of bullet [n]
lowest prob with one vowel: DYBBUKS a wandering soul in Jewish folklore [n]

some 8 letter words with lots 'o vowels:
DIECIOUS or DIOCIOUS unisexual [adj]
DOUPIONI a silk yarn [n]

See, I just learned something too. I'll let you know when I get to play one of those last three in a game.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Found Word of the Day: AACINR

Found on the cover of the Valley Advocate...

anagrams are...
ACINAR: adj form of ACINUS, a small, saclike division of a gland
ARNICA: a perennial herb
CARINA: a carinate anatomical part (takes a front hook of O, and back hook of E,L,S)
CRANIA: pl. form of CRANIUM, ths skull

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


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... here we go again!

The challenge I'm referring to here is not the noun defined as"difficulty in an undertaking that is stimulating to one engaged in it." Though, that is a good description of a good competitive scrabble game. To challenge, in competitive scrabble, means that you are questioning the validity of your opponent's last play. In North American scrabble, if you are correct (and the word is not valid), then the other player removes their tiles and loses their turn. On the other hand, if you are incorrect (and the word IS valid), then you lose your turn. 

Though this is really the rule in regular 'living room' scrabble, few people play this way (probably because it would end in an argument over whether or not the word is really a word). Of course, there is an official 'tournament word list' that is used so that everyone is on the same page. 

The addition of the possibility of playing phony words really ups the stakes and keeps you on your toes. Often times, people will play a word that they themselves are not 100% sure of- it's part of the risk. Other times, players will intentionally play all their tiles and make a phony word just to rack up points, especially if they think their opponent is unlikely to challenge. And there are even other times where a player will play a word in an effort to get their opponent to turn it into a phony (usually by adding an 'S' to it), so they can challenge and gain an extra turn. Lastly, it's an often followed practice to play the more unusual word (if the option is there) in an effort to draw a challenge, for example, playing 'STYGIAN'(which means gloomy) instead of 'STAYING'. 

OK, so now it's time for a quiz: which of the following words are acceptable in the current scrabble dictionary, and which aren't?


I'll post the answers in a comment later.

things I learned at club tonight

I played Mike F. 3 times at club tonight, and managed to find a way to lose 3 times.

In the first game, I drew too many vowels at the beginning of the game, but didn't trade for a while because each time I was able to make a decent scoring play. I ended up with both blanks at the end with nowhere to play them, and no way to open up the board without being blocked. A frustrating 261-447 loss.

Second game: I keep it close with after his 2x2 ANTSIER on turn 2 with DEND(R)ITE, but don't have the guts to try LOOKUPs, Have nowhere to play the newly learned FIKLSU? (blank's a T) and then blow two turns trying FRAGILe(S) and FRAGILe(R). I should have known the second was bad after he challenged off the first and played an R in the triple lane. Finally get down GnARLIe(R), should've played GLAIRie(R), though becuase he may have challenged that. End up with the wrong tiles at the end, lose 382-393.

Third game: Start out with TENOURS hooking to his SQUAB, which was interesting because it was more points than TONSURE(S) down from the triple word and OUTE(A)RNS as a 2x2. Rather than losing this game by playing phonies, I lose it by not challenging them. I held both mOLTaGE* and TINDER(ER)S* but let them stay. With the first one, he had so many other viable options, I didn't see why he'd try a phony, and the second one just looked too plausible. Adding INTERRED and TRENDIER to the cardbox now. Mike knows a lot of words, so it's always tough figuring out when he's guessing, playing an intentional phony, or playing a good word. Lose 338-413.

Other misses:
-BDEEIRU through an R (I looked for this for a while, came very close to seeing it, somehow still missed it.)

-Had ADEIIOT with an N on the board, so of course he played through it.

-Didn't know the hook to RUBE other than S.

-Missed ECHILSV through an E (was focused on the T in the triple lane which opened up. Grrr.)