A blog for fans of Bananagrams, word games, puzzles, and amazing things

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Unbananagrammable words

In my search for the longest word that you can make in a Bananagrams game, I found a few words (like "floccinaucinihilipilification") which can't be spelled with a standard 144-tile set of Bananagrams because there aren't quite enough of one letter or another. For instance, there are only two Ks in a bag of Bananagrams, and there are at least two words with three or more Ks in common use today.

I started off by studying the letter distribution for a Bananagrams set, shown here:

And then I decided to compile a sampling of unbananagrammable words (leaving out some obscure or questionable ones), beginning with the letter...


Which word has more than three Bs? It appears in The Sound of Music. It's in a song (naturally). It's that "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" song. Answer: The word is flibbertigibbet, meaning a flighty person, and it's generally used in a critical fashion. I kind of like this word and vote that the nuns try to cut flibbertigibbets some slack.


There are about 100 words that would require more than three C tiles to construct, but most of them are highly technical, like "diplococcus" (a kind of bacteria) or compound words like "sacrococcyx" that have to do with things near or connecting to the tailbone. (As a corollary, you can make the word coccyx in Bananagrams (if you ever wind up with all 3 Cs).)

A concrescence is a collection of parts that have grown together, like a bunch of cells in a biological context. The verb meaning to grow together is "concresce".

My new favorite C-laden word is scacchic. It's a very obscure word meaning "pertaining to chess". And it is the shortest word in English that contains four Cs.


riffraff - The people who are to be kept out. Used in a dismissive fashion. Depending on who's using the word, the riffraff may contain flibbertigibbets.


Yes, we are already at K! The two common words with more than two Ks are kickback and knickknack (4 Ks!).

A third example is knickerbockers. Knickerbockers are short pants for men that come down below the knee, but not all the way down to the ankle. They have mostly gone out of fashion, but a variant of knickerbockers can still be seen as a part of the uniform worn by baseball players.


metagrammatism - This means the practice of forming anagrams. It more commonly goes by the term "anagrammatism".

mummiform - Shaped like a mummy. There are a lot of cool -iform words like "igniform", meaning shaped like fire and "cucumiform", meaning shaped like a cucumber.


whippersnapper - An inexperienced yet cocky kid. The term was originally coined to describe 17th-century slackers who hung out on the street, snapping whips for no reason. Somewhere along the way the meaning morphed to its current form. No thanks to the whippersnappers!


stresslessness has an amazing 7 Ss AND it is a word that people actually use sometimes.

possessionlessness, in contrast, seems a little unwieldy and virtually never appears in print. But it does have 8Ss, and that counts for something.


pizzazz is kind of amazing for being over 57% Z (not to mention 71% pizza). "Pizzazz" is the shortest word that you cannot spell with one set of Bananagrams tiles.

That's it! There are really very few words you can't spell with Bananagrams. And maybe a spell checker.

Further reading:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Boggle + Jenga = Konexi

One new game that caught my eye is called Konexi . It has the word formation aspect of Boggle and the balancing act aspect of Jenga. But instead of Jenga-style (also Operation-style, I suppose) delicate removal of parts, in Konexi you have to carefully add letters to an existing tree-like structure without causing it to collapse.

Gameplay is simple. You start by laying out the twenty-six plastic letters in a big circle. Then on each turn, you throw a die and move a special marker the indicated number of positions around the circle. The letter you land on is the one that you have to place in the tree. The object is to position the letter so that it connects to a set of letters that you can anagram to form a word. So for instance, in the illustration on the box, you can see that the words WORD and GAME could have been claimed (by the players who played the W and the E respectively), but if the D had already been there when GAME was formed, a better play would have been to claim GAMED since you get an extra point for each letter in the word. First player to twenty wins. Knocking down the tree loses a player three points and requires a new tree to be started.

And yes, it's not just a trick of perspective; the game box really is a trapezoid.

I really like the dual challenge of forming anagrammed words while maintaining a balanced structure. This may wind up being my new favorite game.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Meet Kigonagrams: Bananagrammy thing & online haiku toy

The simple, elegant design of Bananagrams tiles lends them to a wide range of activities. They are perfect for rapidly sliding around a table as you race to build words faster than your opponents in a frenzy of QATs and JETs and ZOOs. And they are also perfect for less focused, more creative play, like building little Bananagrams sculptures or composing Bananagrams poetry.

It was this last activity that inspired a design student named Fred Truman to program an online environment for rearranging letter tiles into haikus. It's called Kigonagrams, a name that Truman explains as
the combination of anagrams (or obviously bananagrams) and kigo, which are words or phrases associated with a particular season used in Japanese poetry.
Kigonagrams starts off by giving you a randomly selected haiku, like this: And then it sets you loose to play with the tiles, so you can make something like this:
The controls for resetting the tiles to their original positions and requesting a new set of tiles are way at the bottom of the page.

The grayed-out "tweet your haiku @kigonagrams" is an encouragement, but also an indication of a possible future feature.

The most fun part for me was dragging one tile into others and watching as a bunch of tiles got pushed out of position. This kind of physics modelling is a feature that would be cool to see in other online word games someday.

Further reading:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Totally Unofficial WordSquared/Scrabb.ly FAQ

The massively multiplayer word formation online game formerly known as Scrabb.ly is now called WordSquared. I previously posted an introduction to Scrabb.ly/WordSquared and then some more tips. I'm posting this unofficial FAQ to answer any other questions that crop up. The world of WordSquared is evolving rapidly, so this information may become dated fast!

How can I find my words when I've wandered away from them?

Click on the home icon in the upper-left hand corner of the minimap and you will jump to the last word you made. Or click on your avatar icon (next to your username) which will pull up your profile which includes the words in your history (underneath your score) and you can jump to any of those positions by clicking on the words. Or check whether you have previously set any placemarks that can take you back to your words.

If none of these methods work, your words are basically lost, and your only recourse is to search for them, which could take a ridiculously long time. The official advice in these situations is to set placemarks, so you can reorient yourself in the future.

If my words are surrounded by others, how can I escape?

a) You can use the new teleport option. This allows you to move to anywhere else on the map and start building off of someone else's tiles (or your own). You can teleport once every 24 hours for free. If you want to teleport again within 24 hours, it costs 100 stars(!!!).

b) If you prefer to do it the old-school way, read about the breakout method.

Which words can I play in WordSquared?

Any word which is on the TWL06 (the Scrabble Tournament Word List for the U.S., Canada, and Thailand) is WordSquared-legal. There are 178,691 words in the TWL, and the longest possible words are 15 letters long (for now).

I've seen words in Word2 which are unconnected to anything else. How were they made?

These islands formed in December 2010 when the WordSquared code briefly had a bug which allowed players (just new players, I think) to build words not connected to any other words.

How can I keep track of locations on the WordSquared map?

Use the new built-in Placemarks. The interface is visible when the map is expanded to fit your whole browser window.

What does the entire WordSquared world look like?

Courtesy of Aaron Parecki's Flickr photo, on September 5th, the Scrabb.ly map looked like this: It's way more complex now. You can see a time-lapse animation of the growth of the Scrabb.ly world here.

In February 2011, /dev/joe made an amazing world map for WordSquared.

In November 2011, DoctorPeaks posted to Twitter a link to this zoomed-out version of the WordSquared map:

Another WordSquared map courtesy of DoctorPeaks, capture on November 23, 2013, about one week before WordSquared shut down.
I made a chart of the tile count of the entire board as a function of time, based on numbers from the official WordSquared Twitter account and blog:

A zoomed-out plot showing the last known tile count for the WordSquared world:

The 42.2 million tiles played in Word^2 as of March 10th, 2011 made 14.86 million words.

As of January 26, 2012, 63 million words had been played, corresponding to 141 million tiles. (If the tiles-to-words ratio had held at 2.8 tiles per new word, it would have corresponded to 179 million tiles. Instead it fell to 2.2 tiles/(new word). It may make sense for this number to decrease as the number of words increase and word chains lengthen, as there are increasingly more places that people can easily build short words. I'll have to think about this.)

The last tally I am aware of was shortly before WordSquared was closed for good. As of about November 22, 2013, 1,543,257 players had played 264,768,058 tiles, forming 123,148,431 words (2.15 tiles/(new word)).

Outdated questions:

What is the deal with the new version of WordSquared?

It's live! Here is my review.

You can still sign up to be a beta tester for new features by clicking here.

Blanks don't work. What's the deal?

This question is now kind of irrelevant since blanks now have to be bought.
There is a bug that is affecting older browsers. A browser that supports HTML5 fully should allow you to use blanks. Otherwise, just swap tiles when you get too many blanks.

I lost my game in the switchover from scrabb.ly to wordsquared.com. What do I do?

First, visit http://scrabb.ly. Your browser should then forward you back to wordsquared.com, but with your scrabb.ly cookies duplicated over to restore your game. If your score and username and tiles show up in WordSquared, but you can't find the words that you made, try clicking on the new home button in the upper left hand corner of the minimap:

That should take you back to the last word you made. If that doesn't work, try reading about tracking locations.

How do I end the game so I can start over in a new spot?

Since the teleportation feature means you can never really get stuck, your game never ends. You can just pick up and move to a different spot.
Either delete your wordsquared.com cookies or log out.

How can I keep track of locations on the WordSquared map?

Old answer (retained for backward compatibility with old posts):
If you look through the cookies that your web browser has stored (generally buried in the web browser preferences, under some heading like "Privacy" or "Security"), you will find a few cookies set by wordsquared.com. One is called "grid_origin" (it was called "gridOrigin" in previous versions). It looks something like this: [wordsquared.com browser cookies] The two numbers (separated by "%2C") are coordinates in columns and then rows. A grid_origin of 1992%2C-1202 should be read as (1992,-1202) and means that WordSquared is currently set to look at a position 1992 columns to the right and 1202 rows up from some reference point. (The reference point (0,0) is an area where the tiles are very dense and is almost certainly where the first WordSquared word was played.)

If you open up WordSquared in your browser, drag the map to a new position, and then recheck the cookies, you will find that the grid_origin value has changed. (Note that you now have to drag the map instead of the board in order to update the grid_origin cookie. Dragging just the board will update the worldOffset cookie. It may be a better reference, but those numbers are horribly long!)

If you lost your position in the switchover from scrabb.ly to wordsquared.com, you can just look at your grid_origin cookie for scrabb.ly and then drag the board in wordsquared.com until you get the WordSquared grid_origin cookie close to matching the scrabb.ly grid_origin coordinates. Then (like magic!) you will be back where you were when last playing Scrabb.ly.

If you want more official answers to your questions, you can get in touch with the WordSquared team, either through their customer service site or their Twitter account or by mailing support at [the name of the site for the game]. WordSquared now also has a blog!

[Last updated,February 2014]

Further reading: