Below the Fold

From the Baltimore Brew crew, a behind-the-scenes look at what we do…

Scrabble as a full-contact sport? Only in Baltimore!

Giant and very public Scrabble game at the Baltimore Book Festival. (Photo by Jane Krauss)

Giant and very public Scrabble game at the Baltimore Book Festival. (Photo by Jane Krauss)

Well, okay, things didn’t actually get physical Saturday at the Baltimore Book Festival’s giant public Scrabble game. But there was some serious head-to-head competition, the heads on both sides deeply furrowed with thought, the pumped-up crowd cheering and jeering, the 20-plus-point words flying.

You’d think that, since worrying about words is my average day-at-the-office, I would steer clear of that activity on the weekend, but no, I saw the big board on the grassy median of Mount Vernon Place and got totally swept up  into it.

Team "Just Win Baby" getting ready to lay down a word. (Photo by Jane Krauss) Shen)

Team “Just Win Baby” getting ready to lay down a word. (Photo by Jane Krauss)

Teams formed spontaneously from  like-minded passersby – you know, people who start salivating at the sight of those pink triple-word score squares.

We were “Webster’s Wenches” and my teammates included Amy Shelton, of The Hatcher Group, and Jane Krauss, in town for the 2012 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing being held at the Convention Center.

We attracted a lively crowd of supporters, as did our opponents, “Just Win Baby.” We were grateful for the help because these folks who appeared on the scene really bailed us out when we got stuck, especially a woman whose name, I think, was Deena.

She was dressed in a pirate’s costume for one of the Center Stage events and she, like others, was totally swashbuckling  with those handy two-letter words and those rare few words in the English language which have a “Q” but don’t need a “U.”

Scrabble al fresco - at the Baltimore Book Festival. (Photo by Jane Krauss)

Our board at nearly the end of the game. (Photo by Jane Krauss)

I guess it should come as no surprise that a book festival would attract not so much the “I’m With Stupid” tee-shirt crowd but the kind of people who could come up with QUIRE without breaking a sweat.

(According to is a bookbinding term that means 24 uniform sheets of paper or, a section of printed leaves in proper sequence after folding; gathering.)

There was no smartphone involved. Deena and another woman just pulled QUIRE out of their heads and they did it within the three-minute time limit.

We won the game but felt a little guilty about it. (Must mean we’re not really hard-core.) I’m not sure what dictionary they were using as a rule-book but somehow we got away with “LA” and “ZA.” (See photo above.)

These went in the bottom left corner. “LA” being “the sixth tone of a diatonic scale” according to various online dictionaries and  “ZA” being, I guess, slang for “pizza.” I could hear some grumbling in the crowd.

We comforted ourselves with the thought that, if challenged by the judges, we could have done a much less cheezy thing and put an “L” and an “E” on either side of “OUCH” and made “LOUCHE” and still won.

Anyway, it was a fun part of a great day (and as-always fine event) where I met some real wordsmiths and learned a couple of new words. I’m going to have to work “louche,” into my next Brew story which, considering the kind of things we write about, shouldn’t be too hard.

Webster's Wenches scrounging up a word, as the clock ticked. (The gal in the dress was our Vanna White, Vanna Black.)

Webster’s Wenches thinking hard . . . as the clock ticked. The gal in the gown was the game’s Vanna White, aka Vanna Black. (Photo by Jane Krauss)

Scrabble as a full-contact sport? Only in Baltimore!
  • Usha nellore

    Lout, louche, louse–words that shimmer and shimmy in the lousy political landscape of Baltimore, right up the alley of the lustrous Brew and its story chasing luminaries.