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Puzzle Solution #9: Themeless, You Say?

Scrabble dictionaryYou have no doubt finished my “Themeless?” puzzle by now, but may still be scratching your head about the six answers that account for the question mark appended to its title. You have come to the right place. A good anti-itch shampoo may help as well.

(If you haven’t worked the puzzle–all of the really “cool kids” have–it is not too late. Click  HERE  to go back and get it. Come back here anytime for the solution.)

But first some spoiler space. Here is a brief scene from Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V:

The famous battlefield speech put into the mouth of King Henry by Shakespeare begins:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.

and ends 30-some lines later with

… The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

It’s a fine speech and England did win the battle, but King Henry bankrupted his kingdom and, ultimately, lost his life in a futile, long-drawn-out campaign in France. Incidentally, Shakespeare introduces the phrase “the game’s afoot” here. It is the same phrase so often associated with Sherlock Holmes, though he only said it once in the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle.

The solution

Without further ado …


This puzzle is themeless, but as I specified in a note at the top of the list of clues, the six longest answers have something in common. What do they have in common? They are all words new to the latest Scrabble dictionary and word list. The fifth edition of the Official SCRABBLE Players Dictionary (OSPD) was published in August 2014. In coordination with this, the Official Tournament and Club Word List 2014 Edition (informally, the OWL3) was issued. This new word list will be authoritative for use in North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA) clubs and tournaments on December 1 of this year.[1]

There is as yet no complete electronic version of the new word list, but the Seattle Scrabble club (NASPA #253) is compiling and publishing a list of changes. I used the Seattle information to create my puzzle.

The new words

SnowfleaSNOWFLEA is defined as “a wingless insect appearing on snow in the spring.”

UNFRIEND is defined tersely as “to defriend.” DEFRIEND is also new to the OSPD, defined as “to remove (a person’s name) from a list of friends.” Clearly, both are here because of Facebook. Curious that UNFRIEND is defined with reference to the less-commonly used DEFRIEND.[2]

NOODLING was good in the last edition of the OSPD. It was defined then with “to play idly on a musical instrument.” As with most verbs ending in ING, it could not be pluralized. NOODLING is now defined as a noun, “the action of idly playing a musical instrument,” and takes an S.

PODCAST is a verb defined with “to make a program available in digital format for download over the Internet.”

PHOTOSHOP and SCRAPYARD are included in the OWL3, but as nine-letter root words are too long to be included in the OSPD.[3] PHOTOSHOP makes it as a verb (GOOGLE is another new verb on the list).

Scrabblers and others interested in additions to the dictionary should take a look at the Seattle list of OWL3 changes. One interesting addition is SUPERFLY. This word is clued as an adjective meaning “showily pretentious.” My friend Andy will not be happy about this.


The version of the puzzle most of you saw included the clue “Wells role.” The answer is KANE, as in Citizen Kane. But I misspelled Orson Welles’ last name. D’oh! This has been corrected in all versions.[4]

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  1. Or will the new word list be in use by December 1? Scrabble’s corporate owner Hasbro and its dictionary partner Merriam-Webster are concerned about enforcing copyright protections on the new club and tournament word list (OWL3). Because of their concern, an electronic copy of it has not been released for use in word study or word judging software. It is also widely believed that NASPA, the Hasbro-endorsed “official” competitive Scrabble organization in North America, wants to prevent the use of this new word list by the renegade Word Game Player’s Organization (WGPO). Further, there are questions about how and when this word list will be integrated into the “world Scrabble dictionary” (published by Collins in the UK). [^]
  2. For more about the relative popularities of “unfriend” and “defriend,” see Oxford Academic. [^]
  3. The OWL lists words up to 15 letters long. The OSPD lists “root words” only up to 8 letters long. Also, the OSPD omits certain “offensive” words and some words (like “photoshop”) derived from trademarks. [^]
  4. Two friends who solved a beta version of this puzzle saved me from a much more embarrassing gaffe. Because I was unhappy with the answer “muds” (which I might have clued with “Runs a furlong in the rain?”), I made a last-minute change from “mauve” to “sauve.” I did not notice the misspelling of “suave.” Thanks to the heads-up, I went back to “mauve” and was able to exchange “muds” for “muss.” [^]

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