# Second-rate Tiles

### by Catherine Wu and Katie Dunn

We are presented with a video of two people playing a bizarre version of bananagrams where all the letters are invisible! We can assume two things: when a tile gets moved on-screen, it represents the same letter the whole time, and that each of these are real words (as confirmed in the last few lines of the video). We use the bizarre amalgamation of definitions to start figuring out what some of these words could be.

For example, we may first figure out CORTILE (“upper 25% in statistics” and “tessellation of hearts”) and ABROGATE (“fraternity entrance” and “scandal”) from the definitions, and then use a combination of nutrimatic and other definitions to find more words.

The puzzle has some references to the spelling bee: at various points, players ask about part of speech, etymology, and word usage in a sentence. The video also ends on “even 14 year olds know them”, a reference to the age limit for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Digging a bit deeper, we find that all these words (with the exception of SPLIT, which indicates the beginning of a bananagrams game) are the losing words in the spelling bee. That is, second place lost to first place by misspelling these words. This is clued by the title “Second-Rate.”

This discovery helps us identify even more of the words, e.g. by looking at the year-by-year Wikipedia entries for the Scripps competition or using Google to find local news articles. We can finally sort the list of words by the first year in which it was the losing word, and take the tile that was thrown into the banana to extract. This gives us the clue phrase EPONYMOUS COMPETITION, which refers to SCRIPPS.

## Appendix

Word formedTranscriptExplanation
SPLITWell what are we waiting for? Let’s begin! (!)The game Bananagrams starts by saying SPLIT
PLANTAINOh, I can use some of this starting word to make this word: a leader of strategy. (1)Like a capTAIN (leader), but for PLANs
If you move one letter, you can make it into a boring shade of brown.Making PLAIN TAN
Yeah, let’s keep going. Now we can spell a virtue...if you ignore the brown color from earlier.PATIENCE can be spelled with letters in PLANTAIN and the new vowels
INAPPETENCEOr we can make this word (2), which is like watching Grandma use her iPhone.Incompetence, but with apps
Well you do need a lot of the earlier virtue if you become tech support.Cluing PATIENCE again
USUCAPIONSpeaking of charging phones, this ending for this word (3) clearly means it's a charged particle.Ends in ION
But there's also clearly a habit of putting on hats. – specifically American hats. But what does that have to do with charge?Habit = USUally + CAPS
Good question. Not sure.
PRONUNCIATIONWell we can reuse this ending to make another word. (4) This is kind of like what Captain von Trapp becomes over the course of a movie.PRO NUN (a reference to The Sound of Music), still ending in ION
No, no, no. It's clearly a movement that is helpful to Maria, which makes sure that she lists her sources. Oh, wait, I misread that.PRO NUN-CITATION
PROPITIATORYReusing affixes is a good idea though. See, I can pretty much make this word. (5)Still contains PRO
Ah, I was going to make a hip palindrome from a subsequence of that word. What does this mean?ROTORs relate to the hip
Maybe it's just a group that sympathizes with a certain political party, I don't know.PRO…TORY
Okay. I got another one.
What language does this come from?Clues asking for etymology in a spelling bee
PROSOPOPOEIAI feel like this one (6) might be Greek. Look at the repetition in the middle there.OPOPO
I dunno, it kind of looks like someone started writing a list of good traits, and then mashed the keyboard.PRO again + keyboard mash
GNATHONICThat actually reminds me: If we go back and reuse the letters from an earlier word, we can actually get this (7). It’s like describing a day where insects are constantly buzzing around you.The insects are GNATs
How would you say this word?The G is silent
I’m not sure…
ABROGATEHave you ever been through one of those entrances (8) at a fraternity?A BRO GATE (a large entrance belonging to bros)
I think it'd actually be a big scandal concerning one of the fraterning members.A BRO GATE (like “Watergate”)
FANFARONADEI'm getting thirsty though. This (9) is like a drink you can buy at a parade, or maybe any event with lots of pomp and circumstance.It’s a lemonade, with fanfare
YARBOROUGHI’m not sure I’ve ever been to a parade. But I did recently visit a pirate’s neighborhood – let me spell its name again… In retrospect though, maybe its name was just referring to the bumpy lawns there…YARrrrr is said by pirates in a BOROUGH, or perhaps the YARds are ROUGH
BILIOUSNESSI know! We can make this (11) a quality of the three goats crossing the bridge.Sounds like “billy-ousness”
What part of speech is this?Asking for part of speech, as is given in a spelling bee
It's probably a noun, based on that ending. Although now that I look more closely, it could be a Super Smash Bro. character in a costume of the goats?NESS + BILly
DISTICHOUSWell, with this set of letters, we’re actually really close to this word (12), which means "relating to double sutures."DI = double, STICH = sutures, with an adjective ending
I’m not sure I follow. To me it looks more like a home that’s far-ish. Could you use it in a sentence?DISTant HOUSe
That’s beyond my ability right now.
CHRYSANTHEMUMWe must have been stuck for a long time. I can make this next word (13) without reusing any letters!
And we both know what it means, so let’s move on.Skipped; can solve by working backwards watching the letters move
OPSIMATHThese letters are really useful. Look at this (14).
It's all Greek to me – hey look, it's even in here.PSI is a Greek letter
Well I certainly didn't learn this subject in elementary school. Maybe they made a mistake at the beginning?It is a type of mistake MATH – “oopsie” sounds like “OPSI”
ONOMASTICSThis one's (15) an Olympic sport, I think. After they added the rhythmic variant, why couldn't this be a thing?It looks like (rhythmic) “gymnastics” from afar
What, featuring a palindromic singer? I guess…Features ONO
CONTRETEMPSThis (16) seems like three impermanent bad things to me.TRE = three, CON = bad things, TEMP = temporary / impermanent; it is plural
This just means disdain. Oh wait, I think I spelled that wrong.Looks like “contempt”
CORTILEOh, I remember this word (17) from statistics! It’s when you're in the upper 25% or something.Sounds like “quartile”
That's like an alternate spelling at best. This word actually means a tessellation of hearts, from the Latin.TILE of COR, which means “heart” in Latin
CERVICORNLatin Schmatin. We can use this first part for a new word (18).
Wait, is this one a mythical creature? Or food?Like a version of a unICORN, but CORN is also food
Maybe a drink and snack combo at Cinemex?CERVeza is Spanish for beer and CORN is still a snack
SPERMACETIOoh I like snacks. I had a good idea for a word for noodles earlier that reuses a lot of letters. The word patterns like Italian noodles, e.g. spaghetti
Noodles? It’s looking like birth control to me. Can’t you make a tastier looking word? Looks vaguely like SPERMiCide
SCHWARMEREII’m hungry now, so let’s just end the game on this word (20).
Perfect, let’s get some kebabs.Looks vaguely like SHAWARMA
By the way…Are you sure these were all real words?
Of course! Even 14 year olds know them!Clues the Scripps National Spelling Bee age limit