New version of Scrabble, Indian teenage chess champ, whales “talk,” freaky fossils, stowaway cat.

May 8, 2024 Episode 179

Scrabble gets a redo, new Indian chess champ, deciphering whale “talk,” freakishly big fossils discovered and the stowaway cat.

Episode Transcript


LEELA: This episode… Big boardgame news – from new Scrabble to an Indian chess champ, humans and whales “talk,” freakishly big fossils discovered and the stowaway cat.

OPENING STING – LEELA: “Hey, hey, hey. Listen up. New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”


LEELA: Hello and welcome to Newsy Pooloozi – the news pool for curious kids and adults! I’m your host Leela Sivasankar Prickitt and, as ever, I’m joined by the big story explainer and sound effects finder – otherwise known as my… mama!

MAMA: Or you can call me Lyndee Prickitt.

LEELA: This episode…

We have a double dose of board game news – from the release of a new, strange Scrabble edition to a new YOUNG superstar on the chess scene.

Also, heard the one about the whale who talked to a human? Of course not! Ridiculous, right? Maybe not… Learn how scientists are going to use AI translate whale-speak.

Staying with nature – two freakishly huge fossils are found that might creep you out.

And a stowaway cat uses one of her nine lives and gives new meaning to a prrrrrrfect parcel – to find out what happened, you gotta listen to the end!

OK, then. Let’s dive on in. First up, it’s the…

BIG NEWS STORY STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “The big news story of the week!”

MAMA: So this week we have a double hit of board game news, oh, yes we do.  First up… Have you ever played bablresc?

LEELA: What? What’s that now?

MAMA: Oh, come on. Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of bablresc!?

LEELA: I certainly have NOT! What is it anyway?

MAMA: Scrabble, silly! It’s scrambled scrabble!

LEELA: Oh! BABLRESC, SCRABBLE, obviously, right?

MAMA: Ah yes, the thinking person’s game, as they say.

LEELA: You get little tiles with letters on them, then have to spell out words.

MAMA: That’s it!  And obviously, more points are given for long words – especially with unusual letters, like X or Z or Q…

LEELA: Which isn’t easy it has to be said.

MAMA: True. It’s a board game that’s been around a hundred or so years. It was created by an American architect named Alfred Mosher Butts (no giggling, that’s his name).

LEELA: (Coughs) I’m not laughing. Well, Mr. Butts was an architect who clearly liked words as much as he did walls and windows.

MAMA: Totally. See, he actually first invented a word game called It then changed It to Lexiko – as in a play on the word lexicon, which means…

LEELA: Words, right?

MAMA: More or less. It’s the words, or vocabulary, of a person, language, or branch of knowledge. So. then Mr. Butts added a sort of crossword like gameplay to Lexiko and called that version Criss-Crosswords.

LEELA: Oh, never heard of that.

MAMA: No, he wasn’t terribly successful selling it on his own, but eventually he let someone else take over and that person made it slightly more simple and renamed it Scrabble. Which is an actual word did you know?

LEELA: Yeah, to like mix things up.


MAMA: No, actually, scrabble means to scratch or scramble around, typically with your fingers, to find, collect, or hold on to something.

LEELA: Well…! I had no idea! Learn something new every day.

MAMA: Or about 5 or 6 things so far. And did you know Scrabble can get very serious for certain players?

LEELA: Oh, yeah. I know how Daddy gets when he plays…

MAMA: Well, did you know there are global tournaments, official rankings and people who study for weeks to compete?

LEELA: Woa… and I thought our family took Scrabble seriously, but maybe not.

MAMA: Oh, no. When you`re playing serious Scrabble you’re going head- to-head with another wordsmith in a daring game to see who will reign supreme in the world of obscure… muahahahaha!

LEELA: Oh, my, gosh. Mother!

MAMA: OK, just kidding. But all this combative talk is EXACTLY what Mattel — the people who make Scrabble – were thinking about when they created a new more inclusive version of the game.

LEELA: Oh, I guess I can see it. I know these days; some Gen Alpha and Gen Z people aren’t really into “single player” games… I mean, hello, Fortnight, right?

MAMA: Exactly! So, the new version is an update of the classic everyone-out-for- themselves game. But in the upgrade people play together as a team.

LEELA: Hmmm. How does that work, exactly?

MAMA: Well, let’s cut across to our avid Scrabbler, Yuvraj Singh Sahni, to tell us more about this…

YUVRAJ: Thanks, guys!

Yep, to some people of my generation, scrabble can be… scary.

Now, I, personally, am not necessarily one of those people.

I quite like competing with another player to see who wins.

But… some people find that, well, a little… intimidating, you know, overwhelming in a way that knocks your confidence.

Well, now, there’s a less scary version of Scrabble called… Scrabble Together!

This game is basically the normal scrabble, except – as the name says – everyone works together.

As in – all the players collaborate together to complete the activity given on a set of “goal cards.”

These cards tell you a type of word to make, a letter to include, or the position of the word on the board.

So, instead of thinking about beating the other players, you have to think about beating the game!

Cool, right?

And, actually, this is perfect for beginners.

Because how often when you were first learning Scrabble did a parent or an older sibling or friend step in to help you out?

I know that happens to me sometimes. I mean, only on the odd occasion, when I was really young…

So, this new version could be a cool introduction to the game and, well, a fun way to learn new words, never mind how they’re spelled.

And then for those who like to…


Joist, or fight, with their opponents in a human-versus-human battle of the brains*… then old Scrabble is there waiting for you.


But for the more gentle wordsmiths, who just like to nerd out and work as a team finding the wildest word possible, Scrabble Together is there for you.

As for me, I’m off to study some words with V, X, Y and Q in them.

As a bonus, I’ll leave you with a few of my favorites… vox, exit, quit, and, yes, victory!

That’s all from me, Yuvraj Singh Sahni, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!

LEELA: Woah, thank you very much for that report and those excellent Scrabble words, which I’m just making note of right now…

MAMA: But as a little news update – did y’all hear about that a big Amazon truck carrying boxes of the new Scrabble Together game that crashed.

LEELA: Uh, no…

MAMA: Well, that’s the word on the street.

LEELA: Oh… that was so bad it was Kinda good, Mama.

MAMA: Thank you, thank you. So… This is our board game special episode two for the price of one! There is BIG news in the world of competitive chess.

LEELA: You mean the youngest ever player – at just 17-years-old competing in the World Chess Championship?

MAMA: Yup. Who’s already ranked SIXTH in the world despite playing against people twice his age.

LEELA: For me even thrice who became – by the way – India’s youngest grandmaster at twelve-years-old.

MAMA: Ah-ha. We’re talking about none other than D Gukesh, who’s rocking the world of competitive chess.

LEELA: A board game bombardment, you could say.

MAMA: Ha ha… Good one…

LEELA: Thank you. And just to remind everyone… The game of chess was created right here in India during in the 6th century.

MAMA: Well, it’s a matter of debate exactly when and where it was created, but yes, there is strong evidence modern day chess was based on a game from the Indian Subcontinent called chaturanga, with pieces that originally represented warfare at the time: infantry, cavalry, elephants, chariots, a general, and a king.

LEELA: Why, thank you so much for all those fabulous facts, Mama.

MAMA: And now, for the latest on the Indian chess whiz kid, let’s go to our very own whiz kid, Sahasra Sridhar, from Chennai in South India.

LEELA: Over to you Sahasra.

SAHASRA: Thanks, Leela!

Gukesh has really become the most heard name these days!

He’s opening new doors for Indians in the world of chess – no Indian has been world champion since Vishwanathan Anand in 2013, and Gukesh has the chance to change that!

His next event is playing against the current world champion, Ding Liren from China, at the World Chess Championship.

This championship, in fact, may be hosted by India!

The tournament consists of 14 games played by the reigning world champion and the challenger – in this case, Gukesh.

This will happen between mid-November and December this year, with a budget of a whopping 8.5 million dollars, or 70 crore rupees!

When asked about how he feels about being the challenger, Gukesh replied –


Wow such sweet humility. You respect such you gonna be really such a proud and both full but not Gukesh clearly. Oh, by the way Leela, how are you doing anyway?

LEELA: Oh! I’m good, Sahasra, thanks. But uhhh, why are you asking…?

Sahasra: Just checking in on you, mate. Get it? CHECKMATE!

With that, I’ll be signing off. This is Sahasra Sridhar, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!

LEELA: Oh, very good! Thanks so much, Sahasra! We do appreciate a good pun. Yes, we do.

MAMA: Yes, we do. And thank you for the writing of both those Newsy Pooloozi stories and the recording of the last one.  Yeah, very gaming of you, I’d say! Get it?

LEELA: Got it, got it, thank you…

[SOURCE: https://edition.cnn.com/2024/04/09/business/scrabble-together-game-scli-intl-gbr/index.html







MAMA: And now let’s have some of this…

NATURE STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “The call of nature. Get on your safari suite. Or squeeze into your scuba gear. And get ready to hop into a jeep. Or submarine. Submarine. Because Mother Nature is calling! Nature.”  

MAMA: And this is clearly a double-dose episode, because when we say nature, we’ve got not one but two, no, wait, actually three fascinating nature stories today. First up, we´ll start with a whale of a tale.

LEELA: Oh, this sounds cute! Tell me more….

MAMA: Well, actually not a whale of a tale, come to think of it. More a whale of a conversation. As in, scientists are using AI…

LEELA: Artificial Intelligence.

MAMA: Correct. They’re using artificial intelligence to translate whale talk. A conversation of whale and human.

LEELA: What?

MAMA: Yep, ok, well, to decipher, or figure out, what humpback whale sounds MIGHT mean to us humans!

LEELA: Oh, I think we did a similar story years ago about spider talk, right?

MAMA: We did indeed. That would be Episode 43, way back in April 2021, can you believe.

LEELA: But also, if I’m not mistake, put into our Creepy Crawlies Capsule in Episode 108.

MAMA: That is so right. You are on the ball, girl! So, Newsies, do go back and have a listen to either episode.

LEELA: Ohhh, I love that they are Newsies. Welcome to the board Newsies. Or both. I’m just saying.

MAMA: True, true. Both have different things to offer. And, like most of our episodes, they’re full of news, yes, but most of the stories are still timely today. OK, so back to this week and whales.

LEELA: YES! I’m guessing that by using AI to help crack the code, it means scientists have a bunch of humpback whale sounds, just like laying around. I mean, how exactly are they doing this?

MAMA: Very good question! In fact, let’s get our environmental duo, Marcky and Nina Grañena from Barcelona, who had a whale of a time doing whale stories for us before to tell us more.

NINA: Thanks guys.

So yeah, back in 2021, a group of researchers from California conducted an experiment in the water near south-east Alaska with TWEAIN, a 38-year-old female humpback whale.

MARCKY: They used a big underwater speaker to play a recording of another humpback whale making a greeting call. And the researchers were stunned at what happened next.


NINA: TWEAIN, the humpback, started responding in a conversation like way – or “talking” – engaging with them in a back and forth of whale sounds.

MARCKY: Basically, a humpback whale and some scientists just like shootin’ the breeze.

NINA: Yeah! And now, with the help of large language models in AI, they might be able to figure out what in the world she was trying to tell us!

MARCKY: So, how does this work, you’re wondering?

NINA: Basically, AI allows researchers to analyze huge amounts of animal audio in just a few seconds.

MARCKY: Compared to humans who would take, like, decades to sift through all that audio.


NINA: Later this year, scientists hope to publish their findings, and if they do, we´ll be here to revisit the story!

In Barcelona, this is Nina and Marcky Grañena for Newsy Poolooziiiiiiiiii!

LEELA: Thanks, you guys! I love those kinds of stories.

MAMA: Yeah, we hear so much about the scary stuff about AI, it’s nice to hear how the tech can work in favor sometimes too.

LEELA: Totally.

MAMA: But before we leave nature news, we have more noteworthy topics to share. Both in fact having to do with fossils. Kind of freaky, long, big fossils.

LEELA: Fossils! Those old bits of bones, shells, or imprints of animals, or any trace of a once-living thing from long ago, in case ya didn’t know.

MAMA: Thank you. Indeed. That is right. They’re super important for understanding our past. In fact, it’s precisely BECAUSE of fossils that we know dinosaurs once roamed the planet!

LEELA: Oh, yeah.

MAMA: Well recently, a group of paleontologists…

LEELA: As in the people who study dinosaur fossils…

MAMA: Yes, paleontologists from England say they now know that bits of a jawbone discovered in 2016 and bits of another jawbone chanced upon by a father and daughter walking along the beach, by the way in 2020 are of different animals but the same species.

LEELA: OK. What is the species called?

MAMA: Ichthyosaur. [PRONOUNCED: ik·thee·uh·sor] A marine reptile.

LEELA: Ewww! Like a snake?

MAMA: No, more like a huge seal but with a very long snout full of pretty big teeth. And that’s the thing about this story words like huge and big may be understatements. These creatures may have been the largest ever marine reptile to lived.

LEELA: When you say large you mean…?

MAMA: We’re talking 82 feet – or 25 meters long.

LEELA: Hmmmm, which is roughly….

MAMA: The size of not one but TWO school buses back-to-back.

LEELA: I would not want to chance upon that thing…

MAMA: Nope… And get this – scientists analyzing the fossil say it looks like it was still growing, apparently, so it might have even been bigger!

LEELA: Man – and I thought the fossil discovery here in India was big. Or, should I say, LONG.

MAMA: Another sea creature.

LEELA: No, a snake, actually.

MAMA: Yiiiiihhh!

LEELA: Yeah like, a 30 to 50 foot long (or a 10-15 meter long) snake.

MAMA: As in…

LEELA: Yes, a school bus! Just one. But still.

MAMA: Dang, that’s an awfully long snake! Thank goodness it was prehistoric. When I wasn’t around.

LEELA: Seriously, Paleontologists in Gujarat, where it was discovered, are saying it’s the largest ever found on Earth!

MAMA:   I am so happy to be living in the 21st century, I gotta say.

[SOURCE: https://www.bbc.com/reel/video/p0hp5111/listen-to-world-s-first-chat-between-humans-and-whales






LEELA: You’re telling me! And finally, let’s see what the lucky dip machine has for us this week. (Please no more freaky fossils!)

ODDBALL STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “Step right up, step right up… Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? An oddball, no doubt!”

LEELA: I just love an oddball with a happy ending, and today, we’ve got a story with the happiest of endings about a stowaway cat!

MAMA: And by stowaway you mean someone – or apparently some CAT – who has hidden on a ship, or airplane or any other kind of vessel to travel for free or without being seen, right?

LEELA: Yes and no.

MAMA: So, what exactly is the story of the stowaway kitty?

LEELA: Well, play the music, Mama. Because, once upon a time – just the other day – a family in Lehi, [PRONOUNCIATION: LEE-HIGH] Utah was packing up a big Amazon box, with a bunch of OTHER boxes inside, getting it ready to send back as a return.

MAMA: Ok, I’m following you. They ordered something, didn’t like it, and packed it up to return it.

LEELA: Yes, so Galena an adorable six-year-old Calico cat….

MAMA: Which means, she’s multi-colored… mainly white, with bits of black, orange, and tan.

LEELA: Exactly. So, Galena, who goes absolutely BONKERS for a good box…

MAMA: As do most cats! Ours certainly does!

LEELA: Yeah, she loves bags and boxes. Anyway, so Galena decided that she needed to be inside that Amazon box, didn’t she? Because, I mean, there were OTHER interesting boxes in there too, so how could she NOT want to climb in there and play?


LEELA: But here’s where it gets a bit scary. Galena jumped into the box without her owners knowing it, and… they taped the box shut, drove to the post office and – unknowingly – shipped her off to California, a whole state away.

MAMA: OOOOOH, Gosh. I can’t even imagine how I would feel if I realized I’d shipped off our beloved kitty cat away.

LEELA: You better not. But that’s just it! They had no idea! They thought Galena was just missing. Like, you know, just walked off and never came back! They put signs up all around their neighborhood hoping someone would reply. But – not a word. Six days passed and the owners were starting to lose all hope… until….

MAMA: Here comes the happy ending part!

LEELA: She was discovered at a receiving center in Riverside California, about 650 miles away from her home by an Amazon employee, who took the frightened animal to a vet, who scanned her microchip and found the owners, who they called immediately.

MAMA: Oh!!!

LEELA: At first the owners thought it was a prank caller, a joke. I mean, who parcels up a cat, right? But no… They heard how she was super hungry and thirsty after all that time, but apparently there was a little crack in the box that allowed in some air.

MAMA: Oh, wow. And I guess, thank goodness it was Spring I mean summers in Utah are hot and winters are cold!

LEELA: Exactly! Any other time of year and this might not have been a happy ending.

MAMA: That is an AMAZING story! Kudos to folks who helped alert her owners! They really DID avoid a cat-tastrophy on that one! Get it?

LEELA: Cat-tastrophy. Oh, I get. But I’m really surprised you passed up the chance to talk about the prrrrrrrrrfect parcel at Amazon.

MAMA: Ewwwww… good one.

[SOURCE: https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/29/us/amazon-package-cat-utah-california.html


FAB FACTS STING – LEELA: “And it’s time to wrap up the podcast with the top five fab facts heard today. Here goes…”


MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 1 – The famous word board game Scrabble, which has been around for 100 years, has a new version called Scrabble Together. Who invented the game?

Alfred Mosher Butts

LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 2 – What did the creator call the game before it was called Scrabble?

It, Lexiko and Criss-Crosswords

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 3 – And what does the word scrabble actually mean?

To scratch around to find something.

LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 4 – India has a new chess whizz-kid, the youngest ever player at just 17-years-old competing in the World Chess Championship. What was the 6th century Indian board game many say chess is based on?


MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 5 – And we had a lot of fun freaky fossil news this week about the discovery of the remains of large marine reptiles and a snake. What is the name of the scientists that study such prehistoric fossils?


And don’t forget, if you want to test yourself later on, then go to the Lucky Dip page of our website,  newsypooloozi.com, that’s pool-o-o-z-i, and take this quiz online in your own time! Hey that’s Pooloozi like a swimming pool get it. P-O-OL-O-O-Z-I .com

LEELA: That brings us to the end of this episode of Newsy Pooloozi!


LEELA: Big shout out to Sahasra Sridhar, our fabulous intern who wrote our board game stories.

MAMA: And to my co-producer, Julie Noce, and trusty production assistant, Jyoti Chauhan.

LEELA: If you enjoyed this dip in the coolest pool of news and information then HIT that subscribe button on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, Alexa or wherever you get your podcasts.

MAMA: While you’re at it… Give us a good rating. Or better still, leave us a review! Go on we’ll read it out loud if you do…

LEELA: OK, then, see you next week in the happy, splashy giant Newsy Pooloozi!