Grottier than thou

Thursday, 24 February 2005 — 10:56pm | Scrabble

I would like to amend what I said in this post by announcing that yes indeedy, I have finally won a game against Albert Hahn. By no small margin, either – the final score was 470-340, though had it not been for an impatient oversight on my part, I could have made it 486.

While I did not record the board layout or keep track of either player’s racks (though that information could easily be deduced from my scoresheet, as it always can unless I do not figure out what my opponent exchanged on a given passed turn), I attribute the victory to three key plays. The first was my opening rack of DEIJKO?, which I harnessed for JOKED on 8D for 50 points. The second was a double-blank bingo, eXHaUST for 98 with the X hooking to make JEUX; usually, double-blanks are a curse in that one of the two blanks feels wasted and you can often go clinically insane trying to find the best bingo, but here, everything fell into place. Shortly after, Albert extended it to eXHaUSTED for 36, but I stayed ahead.

I lost a turn due to a phoney – in yet another quirk of the OSPD, GOETH* is no good, but COMETH and DOETH are okay – and I also let Albert get away with a rather spurious one, SILENIC*. I suspected that it was SELENIC gone wrong, but when you play opponents with a vastly superior vocabulary, sometimes you play it safe. But the clincher was my out-play, a lucky draw to ETOILES for 67. I actually could have played it on a triple that Albert had just set up as a last-ditch gamble for 83 points, but I missed it. Patience, young Jedi.

Interestingly, before we cleaned up the board from the previous round, Albert pointed out a valid bingo on a TWS that he mistakenly challenged, GROTTIER. It’s not exactly a rack that you study, he noted. I knew the word with absolute surety, but that was only because I am a practicing Beatlemaniac. “Grotty” has a fascinating etymology, albeit brief: its first appearance was in 1964, in the scene from A Hard Day’s Night where George Harrison is speaking to a marketeer who makes a special note of his using what is apparently slang for “grotesque” amongst Liverpudlian youth. Can you name another rock band that shot a word into the lexicon with a single utterance? I didn’t think so.

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