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AWADmail Issue 209

May 14, 2006

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages

From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Subject: Results of the mystery theme contest

Each of last week's words (aphotic, plashy, scrabble, balsamic, and procellous) is worth 14 points in a game of Scrabble. You can find the score for your favorite words or for your own name.

The first person to deduce the theme was Mike Stollery (mike.stolleryATrbos.com) of London, UK who sent his answer on Tuesday. Second was Scott D. Combs (scottcombsATckarch.com) of Portland, Oregon, and third Dale Beugin (dtbeuginATyahoo.ca) of Vancouver, Canada both of whom sent the answer on Thursday.

I realize that it's challenging. You want to be the first to find the answer, but on the other hand you want to make sure you have sufficient information. Hundreds of readers didn't wait beyond the first word and offered their guesses -- which is like trying to fit a curve based on a single data point.

Here are day-by-day highlights:


Most creative response:
Words to describe agoraphobics, or just light-skinned people who refuse to go out for almost any reason.
-Edward Millunchick, MD (edw101ATcomcast.net)

Most common response:
Words related to light or absence of it.


Most creative:
Words of places that Gollum likes.
-Charis Cotter (chariscATsympatico.ca)

Most common:
Words related to five elements: earth, water, fire, wind, and air.


Most creative:
All words are somehow related to renewable sources of energy. aphotic: solar energy; plashy: hydro energy; procellous: tidal and wind energy.
-Nikhil Pai (nikspiATyahoo.com)

Most common:
Words related to water.


Most creative:
Words describing New Orleans nearly a year ago.
-Will Greenleaf (greenlewATcanby.k12.or.us)

Most common:
Words that have other words in them.


Most creative:
Words to describe a turtle's journey from the sea to land to lay its eggs and back again to the sea: a turtle lives deep in the aphotic zone of the procellous sea and slogs through plashy waters as she scrabbles over rocks toward land to lay her eggs, and returns with her young to the balsamic waters of home.
-Shirley Fackelman (ednasaidATcox.net)

Most common:
They all relate to the senses: sight, sound, touch, smell or hear.

Out of thousands of people who sent their solutions, about two dozen had the correct answer, though some of the other explanations were quite persuasive.

Also, if you play Scrabble in another language, this puzzle wouldn't work as Scrabble tiles have different points in other languages (based on how often various letters of the alphabet occur in that language).

Now you know what makes those five words equal ("equal" is also worth 14 points, by the way).

From: Daniel Roddick (cyberstorkATearthlink.net)
Subject: Scrabble board

I figured that I'd send you a shot of the board. I foolishly thought that setting it up would be easy. Maybe a better Scrabble player could get it done legitimately. I had to Photocheat. I guess real Scrabble players will quickly see why this board could never happen.

From: Greg Bakker (greg.bakkerATkooima.com)
Subject: Mystery Theme

I think this week's Mystery Theme is...childbirth.

1) Aphotic - lightless - The child in the womb.

2) Plashy - splashy - The water broke!

3) Procellous - stormy - Wow, that contraction was strong! Can't you drive any faster! Don't touch me!

4) Scrabble - to struggle to obtain something not easily available - Push! Push! Push!......It's a...girl!

5) Balsamic - soothing or healing - Wow, isn't she adorable! Just holding her against me like this makes me forget all that plashy, procellous scrabbling in between that aphotic nervousness and this balsamic bliss.

Congratulations!...on another enjoyable Mystery Theme.

From: Michael Bonner (bonnerjmATmusc.edu)
Subject: puzzle

I don't know the answer, but I do know that I really like the phrase, "It was an aphotic and procellous night..."

From: Robert Watson, MD (robert_watsonATallianzlife.com)
Subject: scrabble

I appreciate your tip of the hat to the best word game in the world. I won the North American Scrabble Championship back in '88, arguably the highlight of my life to date (but please don't tell my wife that).

From: Roger Colkett (roger.colkettATpm4q.co.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--plashy

I think that for many people "plashy" will always have somewhat comical overtones derived from Evelyn Waugh's wonderfully comic 1938 satire Scoop, in which Lord Copper, the bullying philistine boss of the Daily Beast, mistakenly sends William Boot, a timid unworldly writer of nature notes, to report on an African war.

"Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole" is the leitmotiv of William's nature column.

From: Stuart Morle (stuartATstuartmorle.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--procellous

Procellaria is the Italian name for the Storm Petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus). Procellariiformes is the Latin term that describes birds that are particularly adapted to oceanic conditions.

The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest men of past centuries. -Rene Descartes, philosopher and mathematician (1596-1650)

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