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Weekend Word Wrap: SCRABBLE

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I turned on the TV the other day and they were showing Rosemary's Baby. It was right at that part where the Scrabble letters help a very young and beauteous Mia Farrow figure out what's going on in that OTHER apartment in the Dakota. It got me wondering: who the heck invented Scrabble, anyway?

Turns out, had the Great Depression never happened, the board game we love so much (1 out of every 3 homes in America owns it) might never have been invented.

In the early 1930s, unemployed architect, Alfred Mosher Butts from Poughkeepsie, New York, decided he'd invent a board game. (Perhaps he was bored being out of work?)

amb.jpegButts studied crossword puzzles, which were popular at the time, and games like Anagrams, but(ts) got his best idea when he took a detailed survey from the front page of The New York Times. By tallying up the frequency with which each letter appeared, he was able to determine how many As, Bs, Cs, and so on, he'd include in the game.

Scrabble-assoc.com says:

Established game manufacturers were unanimous in rejecting Butts' invention for commercial development. Then Butts met James Brunot, a game-loving entrepreneur who became enamored of the concept. Together, they made some refinements on rules and design and, most importantly, came up with the name "SCRABBLE," a real word which means "to grope frantically."

So what was it called before Scrabble? Whelp, first it went by the name Lexiko (Greek for "lexicon"), and then later, Criss Cross Words. After doing all that exhilarating research for you, I decided to look up some Scrabble records. Here are a couple that made my jaw drop:

  • Highest opening move score — BEZIQUE (a card game resembling pinochle ) for 124 points by Sam Kantimathi of California.
  • Highest score for a single move "“ CAZIQUES (West Indian Chiefs) for 392 points, by Karl Khoshnaw of Manchester, UK.

So what's the best word you've ever played in Scrabble? We'd love to hear some of your rarities or top scorers. Or even funny stories about words you tried to play but were called on.

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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images
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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy Murdoch University
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Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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