The three letters looked innocent enough - E, L and Z.
Applause turned to apprehension as the faux pas became clear
But when Trey Wright combined them to make LEZ during the US Scrabble contest finals being taped for television, he provoked uncommon excitement.
The 32-point score put him on the verge of victory, but the use of a slang term for lesbian threatened to take him off the air.
Judges and TV directors, briefly lost for words, were sent scrabbling for answers and ruled that LEZ had to go.
In normal Scrabble rules, any legitimate word is fair game.
But for the finals, which are to be televised later, a list of potentially offensive words had been drawn up and their use banned.
The crowd watching the finals live at the New Orleans venue are reported to have erupted with complaints at the ruling.
And to make matters worse Mr Wright, a 30-year-old concert pianist from Los Angeles, had already drawn his two replacement tiles before the referee could spot the problem.
"He violated the rules. But there were also people who were upset that the word was played," John Williams, executive director of the National Scrabble Association, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.
The game was halted and the players were consulted.
Mr Williams and other members of the association's advisory board held an emergency meeting.
But LEZ had to go.
Mr Wright showed the two letters he had pulled from the bag to his opponent, David Gibson, before returning them and retaking his turn, playing a less controversial GUV for seven points.
He continued with more innocent words, ending with TEOPANS (Mexican temples) to clinch a win, the title and the $25,000 first prize, and seemed unfazed by the row.
"Meaning has no consideration when I play," he was quoted as saying.
What is the best word you have ever played in Scrabble? Send us your rarities or top scorers using the post form.
I once managed to end and win the game with the word 'wins'. Which was nice.
Dominic, Newport Gwent
My best play ever was "quetzals" using all letters and an E already on the board. I played it on a triple word score and also created "swig" and scored 199 points.
Erin, La Canada Flintridge, CA, USA
I once drew "quartet" for my opening play. I forget how many points, but I'll never forget gaining perfection for one move.
Kelly, Richmond, VA, USA
Squeezy or Quartzy are the highest openers - 126 points each.
Paul, Cambridge, UK
I once got to play "quizzing" across 2 triple word scores, with the first Z a previously placed blank and the second on a double letter score. This is even more astonishing than "quixotic", with a score of 374.
John , Southampton, UK
After a match five years ago, my brother still insists that "preshops" is a valid word. It has become something of a family legend, despite only seen in print once in an obscure magazine.
Mark Rodriguez, NYC
"Requite" was my first word which gave me a bonus of 50 for using all 7 letters. Next go around I added UN and D at the beginning and end to cover two triple word scores. I can't remember how much I scored but my overall total still remains my personal best 30 odd years later.
Peter Hedge, Victoria, BC, Canada
"Pretzels" and "Zone" across 2 triples and the Z on the double letter - score 334. Very lucky.
I played "zits" on a triple word (z on a double word), and in doing so created "days" on the same triple word square creating a score of 93.
Maren , Washington State, USA
My favourite has to be "quixotic", across two triple word scores, with the X on a double letter square. An astonishing 356 points if you do it just right.
Dylan, London, UK
Bezique. It the highest opening move in Scrabble, worth 124 points. Bezique is a card game.
Sam Kantimathi, Sacramento, California
In a homage to Blue Peter's most inspirational guest, I once managed to play JOEY (baby kangaroo) and DEACON (church official) within a couple of turns. Not a particularly high score, but a moral victory nevertheless.
Horace Grahamson, London, UK
I once played "quisling", using an L already on the board, across two triple word scores, for 221 points.
Matthew Stovall, Lawrenceville, GA USA
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