Word of the day: QUIXOTRY
October 26, 2006 11:05 PM   Subscribe

Michael Crest, a carpenter, beat supermarket deli worker Wayne Yorra 830-490 at the Lexington Scrabble Club in a record-setting game on Oct 12' 2006. The game set records for highest score for (i) most points in a game by one player - 830, beating the previous highest 770 set in 1993, (ii) the most total points in a game - 1320 (iii) and the most points on a single turn - 365, for Cresta's play of QUIXOTRY. Stefan Fatsis, author of "Word Freak", has a nice write-up of the game (lots of misc. links in that article) If all this leaves your hands twitching for those tiles, start Quackling (both, MAC and Win versions available).
posted by forwebsites (33 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Craziest post I have read.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 11:10 PM on October 26, 2006

They must be using a different english than me. Quixotry? Vrows? WTF.
posted by Osmanthus at 11:15 PM on October 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

That's such bullshit. Take a look at the number of times each player passed or exchanged -- it smells like a cooperative game played with the intention of breaking NSA club records. The game should be stricken from the books.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:25 PM on October 26, 2006

C R A Z I E S T (311)
posted by blasdelf at 12:31 AM on October 27, 2006

Ydo ybe ydrad. Ygo.
posted by loquacious at 1:08 AM on October 27, 2006

posted by secret about box at 3:32 AM on October 27, 2006

posted by eriko at 3:47 AM on October 27, 2006

The first four plays are three bingos and a pass?
posted by eriko at 3:49 AM on October 27, 2006

Two, count 'em, two double-triples. I've managed that twice in my entire life. (One was ENQUIrES +196)
posted by eriko at 3:54 AM on October 27, 2006

Looks like the letters came out of the bag right. The next time I'm sitting there staring at a hand full of A,A,O,O,O,B,V I will think of this game and consider that on the other side of the world some bastard's just drawn J,U,K,E,B,O,X.
posted by Hogshead at 5:53 AM on October 27, 2006

Very cool. I disagree with the cavil from Fastis at the end of his piece. Had he lost, he would have lost, so why should his win count as less than the complete record. The stakes may not have been as high for his loss, but that results in all kinds of sports anamolies.
posted by OmieWise at 5:53 AM on October 27, 2006

Are you not cognizant of the whiffs of schemery on the breeze? It's the skunk of de-emphasized opponency: a tacit collusion to chuck rivalry and maximize scoring.
posted by ryanrs at 6:34 AM on October 27, 2006

Writing a coherent comment is tough when all you've got are X, Z, V, and F).
posted by ryanrs at 6:38 AM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

What does "vrow" mean? I can't find it in any dictionary.
posted by ducksauce at 6:52 AM on October 27, 2006

Fatsis says it means "a Dutch woman" in his article. I'm sure it's related to "frau."
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:23 AM on October 27, 2006

ducksauce: The Official Scrabble Dictionary is full of words from foreign languages which have been included in the legal word list simply to make the game easier to play. Fatsis says VROW is in the official dictionary ("a Dutch woman").
Of course there are foreign-language words is common English usage, but my favorite example - QAT - may be a common word for a kind of shrubbery in some other countries, but the only reason it's in the book is because you don't need a U to play the Q.
posted by Lord Kinbote at 7:38 AM on October 27, 2006

...there are foreign-language words is IN common English usage...
posted by Lord Kinbote at 7:39 AM on October 27, 2006

Thanks, nebulawindphone. This page says that you are right, and that it apparently should be pronounced the same as "frau" as well (scroll down to the "Odd pronunciations for letters" section.

I found it by searching for "vrow dutch" following your post.
posted by ducksauce at 7:40 AM on October 27, 2006

Lord Kinbote: Oh. That's kind of a let down, actually. I didn't know that foreign words (not just English words of foreign origin) were allowed in tournament scrabble. I was hoping "vrow" was just really, really obscure.
posted by ducksauce at 7:41 AM on October 27, 2006

Osmanthus: Vrows is much better compared to what you see in scrabble's official word list. Here's a sample of first few two letter and three letter words:


Also I disagree with Stefan's quibbling on accepting the record. Cresta did take a chance, albeit a very heavy chance beating odds of 532-to-1, on winning his game. It's just that he valued his single highest score more than he valued winning the game, but luckily ended up doing both. After all he kept passing while Yorra kept bingoing. Any other player wouldn't have that much guts. And there was no collusion, since the official record states:
There was an attendance of 31 players on this historic night, with several NSA club directors present. There were other achievements in that club session, such as 3 other games with totals above 900, 7 games with a winning score of at least 500, one of which was 571, 7 games with a loss of over 400, etc.; but these stats were dwarfed by this 830-490 fluke of a game.
Now you can call it a fluke that Cresta was able to withdraw the exact two tiles (T & Y) he wanted but then that's the game. Simply saying that the record can't be acceptable because the players were not experts is childish. And it's not as if both players are rank amateurs. Not a top-of-ranks experts, sure, but the game was played in all seriousness as all club games go.

Consider this:
Cresta's play, FLATFISH, for 239 points, was especially unusual because it contains infrequently occurring letters (two F's and an H) and isn't a common word. Many good players would have missed it. Cresta didn't because he had studied words beginning with F.
And indeed Yorra unscuccessfully challenged FLATFISH. Thus combining Cresta's better vocabulary and gutsy style-of-play yielded him not only the word he wanted, but also the game and by a high margin. That the game was a low-profile club game doesn't matter. Similar things happen in every game (eg: In cricket: Pakistan's 17-yr old newcomer, Shahid Afridi scored the fastest century in 37 balls, against a modest Sri Lanka in Nairobi on a flat pitch. A game that was not televised. That doesn't mean the record should be neglected).

I hope Stefan reconsiders his conclusion. Not that his is the official word but atleast the article is linked to the NSA's homepage, and it would be cheating if Cresta is stripped of this record. Not that Cresta cares so much about it, but I see that as all the more reason why Stefan's opinion should not be entertained also as official ruling.

Cresta and that game deserves all the records that they set that day.
posted by forwebsites at 9:07 AM on October 27, 2006

That's such bullshit. Take a look at the number of times each player passed or exchanged -- it smells like a cooperative game played with the intention of breaking NSA club records. The game should be stricken from the books.

solid-one-love: That story clearly got your scrabble dander up!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 9:13 AM on October 27, 2006

The kvetching from the pros reminds me of poker plays complaining about getting beat by amateurs.
posted by smackfu at 10:42 AM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


A (Dutch) woman, matron, goodwife. spec. in S. Afr.

-- O.E.D.
posted by trip and a half at 10:57 AM on October 27, 2006

I'm happy for those guys.
That mad pursuit of obscure words is how the game is supposed to be played. I'm always much happer to get a chance to play a really wacky one than I am to win a game (maybe cause i don't win that much). I really think that competitive Scrabble players (and people who compete at crosswords) often take the joy of vocabulary out of the game (the two and three word list memorization is the quintessential example of this).
posted by Octaviuz at 11:05 AM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Lord Kinbote: "The Official Scrabble Dictionary is full of words from foreign languages..."

Yeah, that thing is crap. When I was a kid, the normal dictionary ruled. The game was actually about knowing English then.
posted by koeselitz at 11:14 AM on October 27, 2006

The dutch word for woman is "vrouw", this must be South African.
posted by Pendragon at 11:49 AM on October 27, 2006

forwebsites, I could not agree with you more. The Wordfreak author's article is a clear sign of sour grapes. Scrabble inherently combines both skill and chance. And that is precisely what Cresta did. He may have relied more on chance, but that ought not to negate his record. I think it is all the more reason to recognize it as a record, and all the more reason for marvel: a mediocre club player broke a record that not even the experts have to this day.

And Octaviuz, as an 'old-fashioned' player myself, who thinks that the Scrabble dictionary is a travesty ('za, as in short for pizza!? ), I do concur with you that the soul of Scrabble has been led astray. However, for those who object to the use of foreign words, those have always been allowed in English. The question comes down to whether the foreign word is used in English or not. One ought to pick a dictionary (I would pick the OED) to be the decider on such questions.

What I find surprising is the negative reaction from those who have already taken the 'skill' out of the skill that used to be Scrabble: relying on one's naturally formed vocabulary, rather than memorizing obscure words and working on mathematical probabilities, which is what experts do. Playing the game in the latter manner, renders the game much more 'Machiavellian' or calculating, in which case, what is wrong with a less than expert player taking reckless chances and coming out on top!?
posted by Azaadistani at 1:41 PM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Such a cool post, such a cool program, such a cool thread! If this doesn't make the sidebar there is no justice.

There is an aspect, in the people who play with probabilities and work at memorizing reams of obscure words, of people who take Monopoly and Risk way too seriously and ruin the game with pedantic behavior*. It can be fun to win with all your heart and give it the best try, but not when you allow the game to overflow past the "game" role in your life, and you start devoting serious time to beating it.

*I can say that because, once, I was one of them.
posted by JHarris at 3:00 PM on October 27, 2006

I kicked my word habit 6mos ago. Wordbiz ruled my life. Now, me want wordbiz back.


posted by lalochezia at 6:59 PM on October 27, 2006

Awesome post. Now I feel like going for a slice of za.
posted by sveskemus at 7:25 AM on October 28, 2006

Of course this record is bullshit. However, Cresta is not to blame. Instead, it's the ill-considered rules and practices of the Scrabble community that are at fault. Stefan Fatsis is absolutely correct when he says only serious tournament games should be eligible for secondary achievements like highest score. During club play, Scrabble organizations should not keep records for anything other than wins and losses. At the club level, any secondary awards can be trivially manipulated and are inherently unfair to earnest competitors.

This situation is a classic instance of The Prisoner's Dilemma. As I mentioned earlier, the problem is collusion between players. The presence of secondary awards like "highest score ever" alters the strategy of rational players by introducing a reward for mutual cooperation. Please refer to the payoff matrix in the wikipedia article. Earnest competition corresponds to defect,defect outcome. But for most Scrabble players, the value of this outcome is very low. This is because only the very best players receive recognition for their achievements. For everyone else, the modest recognition awarded to secondary achievements will dominate the payoff matrix and make mutual cooperation the optimal strategy.

Realistically, only complete elimination of secondary metrics can ensure earnest competition at the club level. They can still be awarded in serious tournament games where the defect,defect payoff dominates.
posted by ryanrs at 5:37 PM on October 28, 2006

And if anyone doubts the huge scoring advantage of cooperative play, I invite them post a shuffled list of 100 letters (see scrabble letter distribution). I'll be happy to reply with a game transcript that beats Cresta and Yorra's 1,320 point record.
posted by ryanrs at 6:20 PM on October 28, 2006

ryanrs I think you're being disingenuous. You are trying to logically prove through aggressive assertion without evidence that these guys cheated. I don't get the hate. And apart from the presence at the event of sufficient 'authority' types, the fact that FLATFISH was challenged is very, very strong evidence that there was no collusion going on here.

This just shows that scrabble is first and foremost a game with a fair element of luck involved. The feathers in hats for the serious players are wins against other topline players with memorized words and point snaring tactics in tournament competition. I didn't see Fatsis' conclusion so much as wanting to disregard the results in this match as wanting to keep competition level results in a separate category which is understandable. But these sorts of scores and the publicity are good for the game - get people interested and no doubt increase club membership so I think it would be a sort of shooting themselves in the foot if this game and its scores were somehow excluded from official score records.

But I'm fully amateur and like many others, pretty well hate the scrabble dictionary. I much prefer to have an agreement with my opponent about what's allowed and keep it as a strictly entertaining pasttime like crosswords rather than a competetive event (but I like to win!). Thanks for the post forwebsites, I saw the link at thingsmagazine and came here to see if it had been posted.
posted by peacay at 12:20 PM on November 1, 2006

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