1750: Life Goals

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Life Goals
I got to check off 'Make something called xkcd' early.
Title text: I got to check off 'Make something called xkcd' early.


The first eight goals on this to-do list feature one or more strange words containing an excess of the last three letters of the alphabet (X, Y and Z), often using several of them in the same words, even several of the same rare letter in a row. (See Table of life goals below).

All of these words can be looked up in the English version of Wikipedia, but only a few are common nouns, three of them weird animal names, the rest being proper nouns, i.e. persons names (fictional or artist) or obscure names for places or video games. The first goal is the one with fewest of these letters, only using two x's, and only the first word is strange, Skrillex being the artist name of a musician. All later entries have at least three of these letters, which are most often used in very strange, often unpronounceable, words.

The punchline, in the final and ninth goal, expresses that the writer of this list often uses these unexpected and bizarre words in Scrabble games, which exasperates his opponents to such a great extent that he has yet to finish a game without getting punched. All of these words would theoretically earn a player many points in Scrabble, but outside of casual play it is not allowed to use proper nouns (see Scrabble points below).

In the title text, a reference is made to the fact that none of these goals have been checked off yet. It also turns out that it is indeed Randall's list, since the writer of the list did (at least) manage to check off the goal Make something called xkcd early. Sadly there are neither y's nor z's nor even more than one x in that four letter combo.

This comic was published the week after the what if? Flood Death Valley, which referred directly to the city Zzyzx in one of the pictures. It's the second comic in that week after the what if? post that references it more or less directly, the previous one being 1748: Future Archaeology. It seems likely that Randall created this comic after doing research for this what if? post, and came across the city Zzyzx as the shortest way to dig a channel to flood Death Valley.

Table of life goals[edit]

  • The number of letters X, Y and Z is in the entire sentence.
  • The total is the total number of these three letters in the entire sentence.
Goal Explanation #X #Y #Z Total
Meet Skrillex in Phoenix Randall's goal is to meet the musician using the artist name Skrillex in the city of Phoenix. Not that Skrillex has any specific connection to that city. 2 0 0 2
Study zymurgy Randall's goal is to study fermentation. Zymurgy (or zymology) is an applied science which studies the biochemical process of fermentation. 0 3 1 4
Get a pet axolotl named Hexxus Randall's goal is to obtain a pet salamander (an axolotl) and name it after the malevolent Hexxus from the animated film FernGully: The Last Rainforest. The axolotl is a critically endangered species in nature, but are relatively popular in captivity, with well established captive breeding populations. 3 0 0 3
Observe a syzygy from Zzyzx, California Randall's goal is to observe an astronomical event in which three celestial bodies form a straight line (known as a syzygy), from the Californian city of Zzyzx. That city was just mentioned in the last what if? Flood Death Valley released less than a week before this comic. 1 4 4 9
Port the games Zzyzzyxx and Xexyz to Xbox Randall's goal is to port (i.e. adapting software from one platform so it can be used on another platform) two old video games so they can be used on the modern video game platform Xbox. The first game is Zzyzzyxx, a 1982 arcade video game about navigating a labyrinth, and the second is Xexyz, a 1988 game for the Nintendo Entertainment System with platform and shoot-em-up game-play. Multiple emulators already exist that can run both of these titles, although an actual native port would be a lot more difficult. 5 3 5 13
Publish a Zzzax/Mister Mxyzptlk crossover A crossover means that two different stories (often comics) are mixed together, mixing either characters from the two, or the world of one and the characters of another story. In this case Randall's goal is to make a cross over of Zzzax, a Marvel comic book villain, with that of Mister Mxyzptlk, a DC Comics villain. Since Zzzax and Mxyzptlk come from different companies, a crossover story involving them both might run into license problems if published commercially, though the two companies have come together on several occasions for similar projects. 2 1 4 7
Bike from Xhafzotaj, Albania to Qazaxbəyli, Azerbaijan Randall's goal is to bike from Xhafzotaj, a village in Albania in eastern Europe, to Qazaxbəyli, a village in Azerbaijan in the Caucasus. The distance between Xhafzotaj and Qazaxbəyli is about 2800 km (1700 miles). Doing this trip by bike would be challenging, but possible.

Note: the Azerbaijani village is misspelled as Qazaxbəylı (QAZAXBƏYLI) in the comic with a dotless ı at the end; a dotted i would have its dot even in the uppercase version in Turkish and Azeri, i.e. QAZAXBƏYLİ.

2 1 3 7
Paint an archaeopteryx fighting a muzquizopteryx Randall's goal is to make a painting of two Ornithodirans fighting. Unfortunately the Archaeopteryx, a famous small feathered dinosaur, and Muzquizopteryx, a pterosaur (the famous flying "dinosaurs"), lived in different time periods, so such a fight (most likely) could not have ever taken place, therefore a painted picture of it would require a fair amount of artistic license. The feathered dinosaur was only about half a meter long, but with clear feathers. It is a clear candidate for a transitional fossil between non-avian dinosaurs and birds. It lived in the late Jurassic epoch around 150 million years ago. The pterosaur had a wingspan of about 2 m, was one of the first (and smallest) of this type of pterosaur, and lived in the Coniacian age about 86-90 million years ago. This means the two ornithodirans live as far apart in time as we live apart from the last of the dinosaurs. Since only the bigger one could fly, it seems most likely that the pterosaur would have won such a fight. Randall has previously made several comments on the feathers of dinosaurs, as recently as the comic released a week before this one 1747: Spider Paleontology; see more there. 2 2 2 6
Finish a game of Scrabble without getting punched Randall's final goal is to avoid getting punched during a Scrabble game. As he uses these unexpected and bizarre words mentioned in his other goals when playing Scrabble games, he exasperates his opponents to such a great extent that he has yet to finish a game without getting punched. This sentence is the only one with zero of the three letters. 0 0 0 0
Make something called xkcd Title text: Here it is made clear that it is Randall's list, as this is his only xyz goal that he has succeeded, and quite early, as he has celebrated 10 years anniversary with xkcd see 1581: Birthday. 1 0 0 1

Scrabble points[edit]

All of these strange words would theoretically earn a player the prize of many points in Scrabble (Go to the table of words below). However, most of them would not be found in SOWPODS (the combined list of all words valid in either British or North American Scrabble tournaments). Also, many include too many X's, Y's or Z's (there's 1 X, 2 Y's, 1 Z in a standard set), meaning at least one would have to be substituted for a blank (which is not worth any points). Some words would also be very difficult to play in reality, since there are only 7 letters in a Scrabble hand, so they could only be played in extremely rare circumstances (there are only a couple of ways to play MUZQUIZOPTERYX: for instance, from MU and OPTER; or MU, QUIZ and ER; or an astonishingly unlikely set of crossing letters). Many are long enough that, in theory, they could net the player the additional 50 point bonus for using all seven letters in a hand if played right.

Table of words[edit]

  • Explanation of the columns:
    • Word: With xyz
    • Definition: Of the word
    • Notes: Part of speech (noun or proper noun) and origin of the word
    • In SOWPODS?: Is the word a valid Scrabble word.
    • Enough tiles (...): Are there enough tiles in the standards English version of Scrabble to write the word?
    • Score: What would the maximum possible score in Scrabble be for this word. (Without any bonuses.)
    • Score (with blanks): What would the maximum possible score in Scrabble be for this word, taking into account the fact that some words need extra blank tiles, which aren't worth points.
    • 50 points possible?: Is it possible to use all seven letters writing the word? If so it will give 50 points extra.
Word Definition Notes In SOWPODS? Enough tiles (in English version)? Score Score (with blanks) 50 points possible?
Skrillex A dubstep musician Proper noun, stage name No Yes 19 19 Yes
Phoenix A city in Arizona (or the mythological bird) Proper noun (but noun for the bird) Yes (but only because of the bird) Yes 19 19 Yes
Zymurgy The study of fermentation. Noun Yes Yes 25 25 Yes
Axolotl A kind of water-breathing salamander which lives on the bottom of lakes. Noun, name of animal species Yes Yes 14 14 Yes
Hexxus An evil spirit from the animated movie FernGully Proper noun, fictional name No Yes, with a blank as X 23 15 No
Syzygy An astronomical event where three celestial bodies form a straight line. Noun Yes Yes, with a blank as Y 25 21 No
Zzyzx An unincorporated community in California Proper noun, name of city. No Yes, with both blanks as Z 42 22 No
Zzyzzyxx A 1982 arcade video game about navigating a labyrinth Proper noun, name of game No No 64 26 (assuming four blanks) Yes
Xexyz A 1988 game for the Nintendo Entertainment System with platformer and shoot-em-up gameplay. Proper noun, name of game No Yes, with a blank as X 31 23 No
Xbox A series of home video game consoles developed by Microsoft. Proper noun, name of game console No Yes, with a blank as X 20 12 No
Zzzax A Marvel comic book villain. Proper noun, fictional name No Yes, with both blanks as Z 39 19 No
Mister Mxyzptlk A DC Comics villain. Proper noun, fictional name No Yes 42 (8 for Mister, 35 for Mxyzptlk) 42 Yes
Xhafzotaj A village in Albania Proper noun, name of city No Yes 38 38 Yes
Qazaxbəyli A village in Azerbaijan Proper noun, name of city No No, because it's spelled with a schwa (ə, upper case Ə) and a Turkic dotted i (i, upper case İ), this word would be impossible to spell in English-language Scrabble, although you could put an E tile down upside down (Ǝ) for the schwa and an I for the İ or use blanks. It can alternatively be spelled "Kazakhbeyli". 38 (at least, unclear)
36 for Kazakhbeyli
39 Yes
Azerbaijan A country in the Caucasus Proper noun, name of country No Yes 28 28 Yes
Archaeopteryx A famous small feathered dinosaur Noun, name of animal species Yes Yes 30 30 Yes
Muzquizopteryx A pterosaur Noun, name of animal species No Yes, with a blank as Z 55 45 Yes
xkcd From title text. See 207: What xkcd Means. Proper noun, name of web comic No Yes 18 18 No


[A to-do list with a caption above:]
Life Goals
☐ Meet Skrillex in Phoenix
☐ Study zymurgy
☐ Get a pet axolotl named Hexxus
☐ Observe a syzygy from Zzyzx, California
☐ Port the games Zzyzzyxx and Xexyz to Xbox
☐ Publish a Zzzax/Mister Mxyzptlk crossover
☐ Bike from Xhafzotaj, Albania to Qazaxbəyli, Azerbaijan
☐ Paint an archaeopteryx fighting a muzquizopteryx
☐ Finish a game of Scrabble without getting punched

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The last line is actually a real punch-line... 14:51, 24 October 2016 (UTC)

With "Unfortunately (the two protobirds) lived in different time periods, so we can only speculate which one would win a fight.", as per current explanation text, I first of all thought 'the latter, as it was alive and the other had already died' (so maybe not a fair fight, but definitely indicates a survivor), but I'm not entirelysure whether I'd even overcome an Australopithocus (despite the height advantage), if I ever suddenly encountered a suitably enraged (and live) one whilst not equipped with my own contemporary tools, so maybe I ought to be less certain about the other fight if it happened in sight of an artist... 14:54, 24 October 2016 (UTC)

I'll call John Hammond. Jacky720 (talk) 00:28, 25 October 2016 (UTC)
We can easily speculate, and just as well as if they lived during the same time. We would have as little chance of guessing who would have won just because they might actually have had such a fight in reality. I think the flying petrosaurs with a wings span four times the length of the feathered (and only proto bird) would have won. The petrosaurs where not the kind that went on to becoming birds as far as I know. --Kynde (talk) 21:01, 24 October 2016 (UTC)

A lot of these are proper nouns and so shall not be used in scrabble. 16:21, 24 October 2016 (UTC)BLuDgeons

A first-fight is how all Scrabble games end in languages that have composite words like Danish or German. That or knockout. Footnotefontsizeselection, quizmasterfluffer, telemarketercounterharassment... 17:02, 24 October 2016 (UTC)

Whoever added "you could put an E tile down upside down" should win a prize. Maplestrip (talk) 17:57, 24 October 2016 (UTC) O I'm gonna go out on a limb and say this isn't actually about the last three letters of the alphabet, but about the five "power letters" in Scrabble (hence the last line): J, K, Q, X, Z. Schiffy (Speak to me|What I've done) 18:09, 24 October 2016 (UTC)

I would agree that there is a couple of other letters but there is hardly enough Q, K and J to make it worth mentioning... --Kynde (talk) 21:01, 24 October 2016 (UTC)
But it's about Scrabble point count, not just letters toward the end of the alphabet. The fact that many rare (and thus high-ranking) tiles happen to be toward the end is irrelevant. The focus is on high-ranking Scrabble tiles, no matter where in the alphabet they are. I thought I might as well verify this, though, so I put the words (without "Mister") onto a letter frequency counter, then looked up the letter frequencies in English on Wikipedia to compare to the average frequencies. The letters that appeared at least 1% LESS often than expected were C, D, E, F, H, I, N, O, R, S, T, and W, and all of these letters are worth fewer than 5 points in Scrabble. (E, N, and S appeared more than 4% less often, and these are very common letters worth very few points.) The letters that appeared at least 1% MORE often than expected were J, K, P, Q, X, Y, and Z. All of those are worth multiple points. Only two of those (P and Y) are worth fewer than 5 points, and Y is worth 4 points, very close... and its unique position as the only vowel worth more than 1 point elevates its status somewhat. P was only slightly over 1% increased. (All tiles except X, Y, and Z have less than a 2% increase. Y has a 7.66% increase, while X and Z each have an increase of about 14%.) It's true that X, Y, and Z show the most dramatic increase (though E shows nearly as dramatic a decrease), but the analysis certainly shows that Randall might have had some bias toward using J (1.33% increased), K (1.45% increased), and Q (1.39% increased) as well as the obvious X, Y, and Z. 04:26, 25 October 2016 (UTC)
My impression of the comic was not that it was just about Scrabble (too many words are impossible under typical Scrabble tile distributions) or specifically the last three letters of the alphabet (there's a decent amount of Qs in the comic), but the difficulty in reading/pronouncing the words. I was following along fine at first, but by the end of the comic had no phonetics in my head to describe what I was reading. I think the title-text supports that interpretation. From xkcd's About page: "It's just a word with no phonetic pronunciation". 05:01, 25 October 2016 (UTC)
There are only two Q's in the comic. I have now removed the Q from the table. It is only XYZ heavy words that are used excessively. I do not think this comic is about scrabble point. It is just a way to list all these weird words Randall has found. And the to make a joke he put in the scrabble goal. (Also just fixed a problem with the post two above here, which was divided in two, and then the next post was posted in the middle of that post...) --Kynde (talk) 19:33, 25 October 2016 (UTC)

I didn't feel that the release schedule (or the lack of such) of the What if? mentioned is in any means important for the explanation. So I removed it... Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 08:37, 25 October 2016 (UTC)

Well he post a rare what if release and within a week has referenced it from the next three comics. He usually do not refer to any what if post directly although he has done so recently (but rare due to the longer and longer span of time between posts). But this is the first time he does so several comics in a row! So in that sense it was relevant that it was the first in 12 weeks. And that it is rare that he has so long spans between two releases. This was the longest this year (and the year ends within 12 weeks so it will stay the longest), and the third longest so far. But now the fact can remain here in the comment. --Kynde (talk) 19:38, 25 October 2016 (UTC)
I already noticed that you are somewhat obsessed from the release schedule. No offense, that's absolutely fine. I on the other hand tend to think that there is no release schedule anymore. So yes, I agree in saying that the references are remarkable, but no, I don't see any connection to the time of release. As the explanation here suggests I think the research for the What If? inspired this (and maybe the other) comic - not vice versa. Plus, imho the connection to the What If? described in the explanation of 1749 is a bit far fetched. "Strange records and trivia" is like saying "there are words" - especially on xkcd. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 07:11, 26 October 2016 (UTC)

Wow. These pages get a ton of edits in a relatively short timespan, when you see them go live, one at a time. It's awe-inspiring. Jacky720 (talk) 00:28, 25 October 2016 (UTC)

The problem with making long edits is that you end up in edit conflicts, so short ones are better. Then it is also easier for others to look in the history and add their own conflicted changes to the new edits. That is why I often make a ton of edits in a short time. Have been locked in a jam of conflicts enough time with new comics editing --Kynde (talk) 19:38, 25 October 2016 (UTC)

I hate to be pedantic, but the game "Zzyzzyxx" (with a clone known as "Blox") was not about navigating a labyrinth. You'd think with a name like that, it'd be something high-tech and sci-fi-ish. No. It's a little green man running back and forth through scrolling walls of bricks to pick up gifts for his girlfriend. It's really one of the dumbest games ever made, and it's hard to find (partly because it was really unpopular). KieferSkunk (talk) 16:38, 29 October 2016 (UTC)

Too bad he missed one goal: Compose a zydeco for xylephone and zzxjoanw. 04:33, 1 November 2016 (UTC)

Zzxjoanw isn't a real instrument, it's a hoax word. 03:50, 16 November 2016 (UTC)

Maybe I'm missing something but why does the "In SOWPODS?" column for muzquizopteryx say "No" when it says "Yes" for archaeopteryx? Neither are proper nouns and I can't think of any other reason that muzquizopteryx should be excluded. 21:47, 23 September 2017 (UTC)