Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Geirt Lemjbu

TigerBlog has been doing The Jumble for as long as he can remember.

You know The Jumble. It's the game where you unscramble four words, two that are five letters and two that are six letters. Each of those four words has a few spaces that are circled, and the letters that go into those circles are then unscrambled to solve a riddle.

The words that have rarer letters like "Q" or "Z" or "X" or "V" are much easier to solve than, say, a word that has all letters like "A," "E," "I," "S," "T," R" and such.

Often what will happen is that TigerBlog will get three of the four words and will get the riddle, which helps to figure out which letters go in the circled spots to help solve the fourth word.

Also, it's often easier to start with the end of the word, rather than the beginning. If there's a "g," "n" and "i" in the jumble, for instance, it's possible that the words end in "ing." Or if there's an "e" with a consonant, it could the word ends with something like "re" or "ve."

Every now and then, one of the four words will be an obscure one that TB doesn't know. For the most part, when he can't get one of the words correct, it's one that he should have gotten, and when he sees the answer, it leads to immediate frustration.

The opposite problem is taking the letters and creating a word that doesn't exist, though it's spelled closely to one that does. That's another frustrating moment.

TB first did The Jumble in the Star-Ledger every morning before school, and he's kept up with it pretty much every day since.

These days, though, the only way to play is online.

The improvements over playing in the newspaper are numerous, including seeing if each word is actually correct and ultimately what each day's time is. TB's personal best for four jumbles and the riddle is 23 seconds.

The Jumble has become a staple in the OAC, with a daily contest to see who can do it fastest. If you want to play today, TB got it in 31 seconds and rates this one as fairly easy.

Yesterday's was easy, at least in terms of the four words. The riddle, though, pushed TB - and the rest of the office - over the one-minute mark.

There are days when it can take upwards of two or three minutes and, on one occasion, it took TB more than six frustrating minutes.

Oh, and you can easily cheat on the online version by clicking on "hint," though it makes a sound that lets the others in the office know just what that person is doing.

Some jumbles are written to confuse the person by appearing to a word. For instance, there could be one that says "tarism," which isn't a word but looks like one and sounds like another one (tourism).

Proper nouns are never used in the actual jumble, but for today's purposes, if TB saw "tarism," he'd probably realize that it probably doesn't start with a vowel and probably ends in a combination, in this case "ist." It wouldn't be hard to get "Marist" out of that.

Marist comes to Jadwin Gym tonight to take on the Princeton men's basketball team. Marist comes into the game with a record of 3-11, but one of those three is a win over Penn a week ago.

Here's another jumble for you: "hotnm." Get this one? Words like this are easy to figure out, since there's only one vowel and clearly the "t" and "h" have to go together. This word is obviously "month."

As in, it's been exactly one month since the Tigers played at home in men's basketball. Today is Jan. 5; the last time Princeton played a game in Jadwin was Dec. 5, when the Tigers looked great in a win over St. Joe's.

Since then, Princeton has played six games in five different states - New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Maryland and Florida.

Being away like that for so long has a strong bonding effect on a team, which gets used to traveling, time away, playing in front of hostile crowds and, most importantly, being together.

In the case of the men's basketball team, it's been even more effective because the team has been winning. Princeton went 5-1 in those six games, with its only loss a close one on the home court of No. 19 Central Florida.

As TB said, words with an "x" are easier, like this one: "xmase."

Yes, it's trying to fool you with the with the "xmas" part, but the "e" goes with the "x," and it wouldn't be hard to get "exams" out of this.

Tonight's game is the last for Princeton before first-semester exams, which means it'll be 18 days off before returning for the Division III game (this year against the College of New Jersey) and 23 days before the first Ivy League game.

Because the break is so long, there's no worry about building momentum from tonight's game. Princeton has sometimes played league games before exam break, and in those games, there's been considerable pressure to go into the break without falling off the pace in the league.

By the time Princeton plays again, the other three travel partners will all have played their home-and-home games. After the TCNJ game, Princeton and the rest of the league will launch into a furious dash to the finish.

And the fourth jumble? Another fairly easy one: "niernw." Again, a word with a "w" and a double letter?

This one is "winner," as in the eventual Ivy League men's basketball winner. In almost ever year that TB has been around the league, which goes back nearly 30 years, there has been a clear favorite, including the last few years with Cornell and almost every year before that with Princeton or Penn.

In fact, Cornell was a prohibitive favorite the last two years. Princeton was in 1990 and 1991, Penn was in 1993, 1994 and 1995, Princeton was in 1997 and 1998, Penn was in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007. That'd be 14 times in the last 20 years that the league race had little drama.

The 2011 season may ultimately have one team that is too strong for the field, but heading into the league, that's certainly not clear. Princeton has to be considered one of the teams with a realistic chance to win the title, but so does half the league.

In fact, with that many teams capable of winning, it means that a 12-2 or even 11-3 record might do it. And that winning - especially on the road - won't be taken for granted on any night.

In other words, eight teams are currently 0-0 in the league, but it won't be long before the race begins to be unscrambled.

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