By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 4, 2017
In game 5 on Wednesday, I faced off against RB, who had bested me in Monday afternoon’s king-of-the-hill round to win the tournament.
Beginning with AGGLRRS, I made a modest play, GAR 8, which RB — to my surprise — challenged. (A gar is a fish; agar, incidentally, is a product of certain seaweeds.) My second play was KAY 10, but I trailed 19-18 after two turns when RB put down LIRE/KI/YE 19.
I took a substantial lead in turn 5 by playing BLOWSY/GAUNS* 52, going up 105-70 after RB’s AG/AL/GO 16. My draw was lousy — AAONU, giving my AMOORV? — but I was able to play it off in turn 6 with VROOM/MAL* 22. (Vroom, which I later learned is also valid as varoom, is a motor noise; incidentally, both take an -S.)
RB had a lousy rack and traded in four letters with her sixth move, leaving me up, 127-70. I extended the lead in turn 8 when I used a vowel on the board to turn AHMNPU? into PAnHUMAN 80. RB’s response was FID/FA/ID 25, which left me holding a big advantage.
Two turns letter, RB had a bingo of her own that erased most of my lead: POTHERS/FIDO 78, which narrowed the score to 250-223. I considered a challenge but decided not to. (Pother means commotion or uproar.)
RB drew even closer with her 11th play, WEES/PE/FIDOS 38. That reduced her deficit to 277-261. She traded in two tiles in turn 12 but had a nice score with her following move, XEd/XU/dE 35, which left me up by just two points, 298-296.
In turn 14, RB played TIZ 12, which opened up the top row. After pondering my options, I took advantage with AJEE/ET, which utilized the top-left-corner
top-right-corner triple-word-score spot to generate 39 points.
RB’s 12th move was JELL 22, which for some reason I thought was unacceptable. (Jell means to congeal or to become jelly-like in substance; the phony I had in mind is actually gell*.) I challenged and lost my 16th turn, but I wasn’t too concerned, as I had a 360-330 lead and both of our racks were short at that point.
I went on to win, 380-358, bumping my record to 5-0 and giving me a measure of revenge for Monday afternoon’s trouncing.
My sixth opponent was Lady Persistence, with whom I engaged in a most unusual game. After opening with EVITED 28 (the word means to avoid or shun), I held a rack of EEFILRR. Unsure whether my play was good, I attempted to bingo in turn 2 with REFILER*/RE/ED 72. Lady Persistence challenged the word off the board, so I took all the letters back.
My third move was RIFLED 18, but LP played QIS on a double-word-score to get 22 points, leaving the score 46-44 in my favor.
Holding AAAEHIR at the start of turn 4, I played AAH/AI/AT/HES 22. And here began an extraordinary stretch.
Playing through AI, LP converted a rack of DINOT?? into DAIlaTION*, a 66-point would-be bingo that I challenged off the board. I did the same with LP’s next two plays, both of which used the same rack: DOTeINg* 70 and sNOITeD* 62. I led 90-44 after turn 6.
I was still struggling with mediocre racks, but I had an S and an X. In an attempt to set up the eight-point X for a big play on a bonus tile, I played LEA 3.
LP gave up her attempt to bingo with her double blanks and instead used just one letter, a D, making LEAD 6. This ruined the play I’d attempted to set up, so I attempted to balance my rack by forming DRY 11.
Here again LP put down a phony, ROV* 18, which utilized the triple-word-score spot at center column–bottom row. I challenged it off the board and made note on my score sheet of LP’s new rack, INOTV??.
Using the same bonus tile LP had attempted to, I played REX 30 to take a 134-50 lead. I pondered my next move and wondered what phony LP was about to play.
She came up with VOlTINg/VIGO* 74, which I successfully challenged. (As I later learned, volting is valid; it’s derived from a verb meaning to make a quick movement in fencing to avoid a thrust.) This ended a stretch of play, unprecedented in my experience, in which my opponent had played five phonies in six turns and scored a grand total of six (six!?!!) points.
After my 10th move, BLINI/BY 21, LP gave up on making a bingo and essentially wasted a blank on eXIT, a 10-point play. My lead at that moment was 151-60.
Both of us eked out modest plays until I was able to make ZOA/MO/AA 34, thereby going ahead, 241-96, midway through turn 14.
LP’s response was BRUT/ZU*/MOT 22, which I considered challenging. (Brut, which takes an -S, is a dry wine; a mot is a witty saying. I knew the latter word was valid but was unfamiliar with the former.) Ultimately, I decided against it, because my rack was the relatively unpromising IMOOORS and I was able to build on the first letter of LP’s play to make BROOM 30 using the triple-word-score spot at center column–top row.
I had one more notable play left, KIS/WADES, which also scored 30 and also used a triple-word-score spot.
The game ended after every other sixth-round game in the tournament — 24 players in three divisions — concluded. LP went over her 25-minute allotment by 10 minutes, at which point she lost 100 points and the contest was over. Final score: 360-86, leaving me with an unblemished 6-0 record.