Scrabble Word Records

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!

Pete Toscano, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Here's the Right Way to Pronounce 'Pulitzer'
Pete Toscano, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Pete Toscano, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The Pulitzer Prize has been awarded to top creative and scientific minds for over 100 years. Named after late 19th-century newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, the prize is a household name, yet its pronunciation still tends to trip people up. Is it “pull-itzer” or “pew-litzer”?

Poynter set the record straight just in time for today’s announcement of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize winners. Emily Rauh Pulitzer, wife of the late Joseph Pulitzer Jr., told Poynter, “My husband said that his father told people to say ‘Pull it sir.’”

If you’ve been saying it wrong, don’t feel too bad. Edwin Battistella, a linguist and professor at Southern Oregon University, said he pronounced it “pew-lit-zer” until a friend corrected him. Battistella looked to Joseph Pulitzer’s family history to explain why so many people pronounce it incorrectly. He writes on the Oxford University Press's OUPBlog:

“[Joseph Pulitzer] was born in Hungary, where Pulitzer, or Politzer as it is sometimes spelled, was a common family name derived from a place name in southern Moravia, the village of Pullitz. In the United States, the spelling Pulitzer would have quite naturally been Anglicized as PEW-lit-zer by analogy to the other pu spellings like pure, puritanical, pubic, puce, and so on.”

Ultimately, though, it’s up to the family to decide how they’d like their surname to be pronounced. Here it is, pronounced just how the Pulitzers like it, in a YouTube video:

[h/t Poynter]

Researchers Claim to Crack the Voynich Manuscript Using AI, But Experts Are Skeptical

Computing scientists at the University of Alberta recently made a bold claim: They say they’ve identified the source language of the baffling Voynich Manuscript, and they did so using artificial intelligence.

Their study, published in Transactions of the Association of Computational Linguistics [PDF], basically states that an AI algorithm trained to recognize hundreds of languages determined the Voynich Manuscript to be encoded Hebrew. On the surface, this looks like a huge breakthrough: Since it was rediscovered a century ago, the Voynich Manuscript’s indecipherable text has stumped everyone from World War II codebreakers to computer programmers. But experts are hesitant to give credence to the news. “I have very little faith in it,” cryptographer Elonka Dunin tells Mental Floss. “Hebrew, and dozens of other languages have been identified before. Everyone sees what they want to see.”

Anyone who’s familiar with the Voynich Manuscript should understand the skepticism. The book, which contains 246 pages of illustrations and apparent words written in an unknown script, is obscured by mystery. It’s named for Wilfrid Voynich, the Polish book dealer who purchased it in 1912, but experts believe it was written 600 years ago. Nothing is known about the person who authored it or the book’s purpose.

Many cryptologists suspect the text is a cipher, or a coded pattern of letters that must be unscrambled to make sense. But no code has been identified even after decades of the world’s best cryptographers testing countless combinations. With their study, the researchers at the University of Alberta claim to have done something different. Instead of relying on human linguists and codebreakers, they developed an AI program capable of identifying the source languages of text. They fed the technology 380 versions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, each one translated into a different language and enciphered. After learning to recognize codes in various languages, the AI was given some pages of the Voynich Manuscript. Based on what it had seen already, it named Hebrew as the book’s original language—a surprise to the researchers, who were expecting Arabic.

The researchers then devised an algorithm that rearranged the letters into real words. They were able to make actual Hebrew out of 80 percent of the encoded words in the manuscript. Next, they needed to find an ancient Hebrew scholar to look at the words and determine if they fit together coherently.

But the researchers claim they were unable to get in touch with any scholars, and instead used Google Translate to make sense of the first sentence of the manuscript. In English, the decoded words they came up with read, “She made recommendations to the priest, man of the house and me and people." Study co-author Greg Kondrak said in a release, “It’s a kind of strange sentence to start a manuscript but it definitely makes sense.”

Dunin is less optimistic. According to her, naming a possible cipher and source language without actually translating more of the text is no cause for celebration. “They identify a method without decrypting a paragraph,” she says. Even their method is questionable. Dunin points out the AI program was trained using ciphers that the researchers themselves wrote, not ciphers from real life. “They scrambled the texts using their own system, then they used their own software to de-scramble those. Then they used it on the manuscript and said, ‘Oh look, it’s Hebrew!’ So it’s a big, big leap.”

The University of Alberta researchers aren’t the first to claim they’ve identified the language of the Voynich Manuscript, and they won’t be the last. But unless they’re able the decode the full text into a meaningful language, the manuscript remains as mysterious today as it did 100 years ago. And if you agree with cryptographers like Dunin who think the book might be a constructed language, a detailed hoax, or even a product of mental illness, it’s a mystery without a satisfying explanation.


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