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Word Freak

A Scrabble Glossary

Alphagram – The letters of a word rearranged in alphabetical order. When discussing a rack of letters or presenting a long word to unscramble, players usually recite the component letters in alphabetical order. For instance, the alphagram for ALPHAGRAM is AAAGHLMPR.

Anamonic – A merger of the words "anagram" and "mnemonic,’’ a phrase used to remember which individual letters combine with groups of six or seven letters to form words. The anamonic for the letter combination LATRINE is MOVING FUNNY SPICES. Every letter in that phrase can be combined with the seven-letter word LATRINE to make an eight-letter word. So, LATRINE plus an M yields TERMINAL or TRAMLINE; plus an O makes ORIENTAL or RELATION; plus a V, INTERVAL; etc.

Bingo – What results when a player uses all seven tiles on his rack in a single turn. Bingo is a noun ("He had four bingos, the lucky so-and-so’’) and a verb ("I bingoed four times. Aren’t I special?’’). Players do not, however, shout "Bingo!’’ after making one.

Bingo out – To end a game with a bingo, a devastating maneuver, particularly if it yields a come-from-behind victory.

Brailling – The act of feeling the indentations in wooden tiles to determine a particular letter or, more commonly, to search for the blanks. No longer a factor in competitive Scrabble since the advent of plastic tiles in the 1980s.

Challenge – The act of questioning the validity of a word or words made by an opponent. During competitive play, a player shouts "Challenge!’’ to indicate that he is challenging a play, and a word judge looks up the suspect word and issues a ruling.

Coffeehousing – The act scorned of talking during a game to distract or unnerve an opponent deliberately.

Double-double – A play that simultaneously covers two double-word-score squares, quadrupling the value of the word formed.

Front hook, front extension; back hook, back extension – A letter or letters placed in the front or back of a word to form a new word. The letter A is a front hook for the word VOW. DIS is a front extension for AVOW. The letter S is a back hook for DISAVOW. AL is a back extension for DISAVOW.

Out-tile – What happens when one player draws better tiles than his opponent, usually used in complaint: "She drew both blanks and all four S’s. I was totally out-tiled.’’

Overdraw – To draw too many tiles from the bag in a turn, an offense punishable by the opponent exposing two more tiles than the number overdrawn and returning whichever he chooses to the bag.

OWL – The Official Tournament and Club Word List, the official word source in competitive Scrabble in North America. The OWL contains every acceptable two- through nine-letter word, plus extensions, in list form without definitions. It replaced The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, or OSPD, as the official Scrabble source in 1998.

Phony – A word that is unacceptable in Scrabble.

Power tiles – Scrabble’s eleven potentially high-scoring tiles: the two blanks, four S’s, and the J, K, Q, X, and Z.

Protiles – A brand name, now used generically, for the plastic tiles used in competitive Scrabble.

Rack management – The act of controlling which letters to play and which to hold. The purpose of good rack management is to "build’’ racks most likely to yield bingos.

SOWPODS – An acronym used to describe the combination of the North American and British word sources used in international competition. SOWPODS merges the letters in OSPD, the old North American source, and OSW, which stands for Official Scrabble Words, the British word list. Even though the OSPD has been replaced by the OWL, SOWPODS is still the preferred term.

Stem – A group of six or seven letters to which another letter can be added to form a bingo. The most fruitful six-letter stem in North American Scrabble is SATINE, which combines with every letter except J, Q, and Y to form a total of sixty-seven seven-letter words.

Stick – To leave an opponent with an unplayable letter or letters at the end of a game. The most common, and unpleasant, scenario is getting stuck with the Q.

Tile Gods – The mythical beings who control one’s fortune in a game of Scrabble. "I drew everything. The tile gods smiled upon me.’’

Tile tracking – The act of keeping track of which tiles have been played during the course of a game. Tile tracking helps players know which letters remain in the bag, aiding in decisions on which tiles to play. When the bag is empty during the endgame, accurate tile tracking lets a player know exactly which tiles his opponent holds.

Triple-triple – One of the rarest plays in Scrabble, covering two triple-word-score squares on the same turn, worth nine times the total value of the word. As with "double-double," it is also used as a verb. "She triple-tripled on me with QUIXOTIC for 284 points. What could I do?’’ The British call a triple-triple a "nine-timer.’’

Questions and answers with Stefan Fatsis

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