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Who played SHODS??? -

a Scrabble whodunit!

If you've visited any of my Scrabble pages you know by now that I can't abide a phony word on a Scrabble board, whether an intentional bluff or honest misspelling.

In May 2008 I had reason to examine the plurals we had played in the Dover Scrabble Club (Delaware) over the previous year. I was curious about how many plurals we had played that would be disallowed by the electronic version of the American Heritage Dictionary Fourth Edition, which we now use, and which makes a determination of which plurals are not seen in common usage. We're talking plurals of indiscrete and amorphous thingies like IRES, CHINAS, PEACES, OATMEALS, etc., all of which the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary accepts without batting an eye.

While simply searching for words ending in -S, I came across SHODS, much to my shock and dismay. Ok, so I wasn't really shocked and dismayed. It's not like the fate of the universe depends upon the perfection of one Scrabble game. You might say I was rather bemused that such an obviously bum word got through all my defenses and entered the record books undetected. (On very rare occasions, a player sneaks a fake word onto the board, but it always gets caught during post-game processing. In fact, even after the game is over, the points for the bad play are deducted from the malefactor's score. Tough love.)

SHODS and TRODS are two words which seem to have a nice sort of ring to a lot of people. I've seen TRODS used in books and newspapers, even. But with a moment's thought you can see how impossible they are.

So the question was, who perpetrated this outrage of SHODS on a Dover Scrabble Club board?!! Well, I had a strong suspicion, but, me being me, I had to pull out the records and reconstruct the game play by play to actually prove it. (I mean, what if it turned out to be me? How could I go on?)

Armed with the score sheet and a record of the finished game board, I figured that would be easy to do. In fact, it had me pulling my hair out. In attempting to reconcile the score sheet and game board, I found myself thinking again and again that I must have miscalculated scores for various plays. And here I thought I was pretty good at adding up Scrabble scores . . .

After coming back to it a couple of times I eventually got everything to work out - there were no arithmetic mistakes anywhere. And that's your challenge, if you so wish to accept it: using the score sheet and the finished board,

Reconstruct the game completely, play by play,

  and . . .

Identify the villain who played SHODS!

What's in it for you? I will add your name to the list of winners at the bottom of this page. They're really smart people!

You may or may not need to know for the sake of solving the puzzle that in the Dover Scrabble Club we have a "three letter minimum" rule. That means that at least one of the words formed in a given play must be at least three letters long.

You may or may not need to know that all of the words played are found in the American Heritage dictionary.

You do need to know that a lower-case letter on the board indicates a blank was used.

You will notice that the tile distribution deviates from the standard 100-tile set. For instance, this game has 2 Q but no Z or X. That's because, for every game we scoop about 110 tiles from a mixture of three standard sets. Every game is a breath of fresh air.


Here's the finished board:

    *    BAND  AKIN    
      CAGY   JUT N     
    QUAD E       F     
      N       BANE     
      VIE  KNEE  S     
     HA MUSE ME  TA    
     IS   HE      Q    
    *V   ROLLING  U    
     E    D       A    
    IS BOYS   OPINE    
      REF  TEAR        
     DEY   R NAPE      
           A   E       
        sHOD   O       
    RATIO  ENGiNE *    

And here's the score sheet. I've put a lot of space in so, if you print it out, you can write the word or words right next to the score.

      Don                  Elsie                  Vivian                   
     trade                    8                     13                     
   +   13                    16                     16                     
       13                    24                     29                     
   +   20                    14                     10                     
       33                    38                     39                     
   +   25                    28                     26                     
       58                    66                     65                     
   +   26                    27                     41                     
       84                    93                    106                     
   +   23                    28                     24                     
      107                   121                    130                     
   + trade                   18                   trade                    
      107                   139                    130                     
   +   32                    28                     33                     
      139                   167                    163                     
   +   10                    25                     15                     
      149                   192                    178                     
   +   17                    17                     17                     
      166                   209                    195                     
   +    7                    19                      8                     
      173                   228                    203                     
   +    6                                                                  

I suppose the three 17-point plays in round 10 are interchangeable, although a real Sherlock Holmes might find evidence linking each one to a particular player. Don't look at me.

The final adjustment to the scores for the leftover tiles are ignored here; they didn't change any positions.

Sorry about the game itself being rather ordinary. Of course, all conventional Scrabble games look hopelessly drab once you've gotten a taste of Scrabble II! That's the three-letter minimum, mixed set of tiles, and American Heritage mentioned above, plus an 8-tile rack and an extended board. Stand back!

*** The Winners! ***

Here are the people who have correctly reconstructed the game:

1. (None yet.)


Was this puzzle any fun for anybody? If it becomes a popular form of brain teaser for Scrabble folk, remember - you saw it here first!


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Helpful keywords not in the main text: LESIONED (not there because my spot was messed up at the last moment - waah!)

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