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Scrabble Word Records

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Here at the _floss, we love Scrabble and have written about it often. Among others, there's Stacy's post on Scrabble words that will help you win, my post on how Alfred Mosher Butts, inventor of Scrabble, couldn't spell very well, and even a quiz by Jason Plautz testing your knowledge of 2-letter words.

One of the topics we haven't really covered, however, are those big point-getters—the words that earn the most points and the people who've played "˜em. But before we get to them, let's start with some hypothetical word plays, or words played in theoretical games.

Obviously you're going to need to cover three triple-word-score squares to achieve these first couple. According to this site, using the OSPD (2nd ed.) and Merriam-Webster (9th ed.), the highest-scoring single play word, found by Dan Stock of Ohio, is OXYPHENBUTAZONE for 1,458 points. Add in hooked words, OPACIFYING for 63, YELKS for 12, PREInTERVIEWED for 25, BRAINWASHING for 63, AMELIORATIVE for 17, ZARFS for 27, EJACULATING for 63 and a 50 point bonus, and the grand total for this theoretical move is 1,778 points! confirmed this move, and redid it using only words from TWL06. With the rack ABEOPXZ, playing oxyphenbutazone, they were able to up 1,778 to 1,780. See the image below.

They were also able to get all the way up to 2,015 points using TWL06 only and the word sesquioxidizing (which doesn't actually exist in any of the Scrabble dictionaries), from the rack DGIQSXZ. So where does this antiquated word live? Online, of course. Right here. ["Well the word is derived from the word "sesquioxide", and thus not found in the dictionary directly (Endangered)"]


Now on to some real world records!

Presently, Michael Cresta holds the record here in the U.S. for most points played in a single game. He set it in 2006, topping a 13-year-old record of 770 points. So how many points did Cresta rack up? How about a whopping 830!

Slate has a really long, well-written post detailing each play, if you're interested, but suffice it to say, Cresta started the game with a bingo, and eventually had a record-breaking single turn of 365 points for the word QUIXOTRY (quixotic action or thought). He and his opponent, Wayne Yorra, wound up breaking another record that game, too: the most total points in a game: 1,320, as Yorra racked up 490, and played several bingoes of his own!


Wiki has some stats that are also worth noting:

# Highest opening move score (OSPD) "“ MUZJIKS (with a blank for the U) 126 by Jesse Inman (S.C.) at the National Scrabble Championship, 2008.[27] The highest possible legal score on a first turn is MUZJIKS 128, using an actual U rather than a blank.
# Highest opening move score (SOWPODS) "“ BEZIQUE 124 by Joan Rosenthal.[28] BEZIQUE 124 by Sally Martin.[28]

* High game score of 1,049 by Phil Appleby of Lymington, Hants, UK, on June 25, 1989 in Wormley, Herts, UK. His opponent scored just 253 points, giving Appleby a record victory margin of 796 points.
* High single-turn score of 392, by Dr. Saladin Karl Khoshnaw[29] in Manchester, UK, in April 1982. The word he used was CAZIQUES, meaning "native chiefs of West Indian aborigines".

What are the most points you've ever racked up on one word? How about one game? What were the words? We want to hear about it!

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]