1.7: Mumbo-Jumbo (Solution)

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Author: Brian Tivol

The names are six sitcom characters (from "Perfect Strangers", "The Simpsons", "Mad About You", "Seinfeld", "Red Dwarf", and "Will & Grace"), and those little boxes are supposed to look like Scrabble tiles with the letters missing.

On one episode of their respective sitcoms, the six characters each tried to play a fake word in Scrabble. (In Scrabble competitions, an intentionally played illegal word is called a "phony", so the last few words of the introduction are a small hint.) If you spell these words using a blank tile, and if someone then went out and removed all the letters from the tiles, you'd get something like the bad ascii-art pictures in the puzzle.

The words are:

Most teams found KWYJIBO to be the big lead-in. First, there aren't many tiles worth five, four, or eight points in Scrabble, and trying to sound out any of the pronouncable combinations will put you on the right track. Second, KWYJIBO is arguably the most well-known of any fake Scrabble words, appearing in such widespread places as the Melissa virus source code.

The middle four words are all easily found with a web search for the name of the sitcom and the word SCRABBLE, pretty much. Scripts or "Did You Know?" trivia pages are plentiful.

The first word comes from an early episode of "Perfect Strangers", from before the blondes downstairs have met Balki; they, like Larry, didn't even know Mypos was a country before they met Balki and challenge Larry when he plays it. As far as we know, this information could not be found on the web. We suspect that nobody has a complete collection of "Perfect Strangers" on tape-- not even at eBay. However, it's not an unreasonable guess, since MYPOS is closely associated with the show and fits the scores on the tiles well.

When we wrote this puzzle, we couldn't find any pages with SPRAMP from "Will & Grace". It seemed that the show had many fan pages, but none that went into great detail. Much to our surprise, some teams did find a copy of the script on-line (hidden in a frameset which most search engines won't crawl through) and knew to look at that particular script by reading plot synopses.

For people who expressed their surprise at the number of sitcoms that used this gag, there are more shows that we didn't end up using. "Friends", "Family Ties", and even "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" have had fake words played. In "Dilbert", Dogbert spells QUIZZING... with no blanks. Since this has become a sad hobby of mine now, let me know if you know of any other words.