I love to play Scrabble. I have it downloaded to my laptop so that I can play anytime I want to — against the computer, which makes for a speedy game. I can choose my skill level (which is in the medium range) and you can type into a dictionary to see if the word you desperately want to use is in fact an actual word. The best part of this particular program is that if I type in a word, other words quite like it also pop up, giving me more options. Sweet!

I also play Scrabble on line. I have only two opponents, but four games going. That’s because when the game ends it asks for a rematch and if we both click on rematch then we each get a game started. Neither partner seems to mind that we are playing two games. Often one of us is winning in one and losing in the other, which keeps us balanced. One player is a quilting friend of mine who is evenly matched to my way of thinking, and the other is a stranger I happened upon when I chose to play against an anonymous player. Her name is Linda and she has a dog face. Of course that’s because she uses her dog’s picture instead of her own — so nobody can find her, I guess. 

But I have no idea who she is or if she’s even real. I mean, no one has ever chosen me for an anonymous game so how does that really work? Still, she just appeared when I clicked on it because I needed to find someone else to play with — as everyone else I know prefers Words with Friends. 

I’d like to say she and I are evenly matched as well but she’s famous for doing bingos. That’s when you use all seven of your tiles and get a 50-point bonus. Of course this has put me into higher gear and sharpened my game, which is why I am sometimes able to beat my older sister these days. And Linda, too. Suddenly I am almost 100 points ahead of Linda in most games and I can’t help but wonder if she is allowing her dog to take care of her “light work.” Still, it’s good for my ego to win. 

Losing is not. I can’t play against my nephew’s wife anymore because she is capable of using 12-letter words I’ve never heard of. I tend to curl up in a ball in a closet after being wildly tromped on by her.

Last week my sister sent me the Official Scrabble Word Finder book. I already had the dictionary but this one teaches you how to score big points. Wanting to know everything, I actually took the time to read the Forward. This is where I learned that the game was originally named Lexiko. Then I read the Introduction where I learned that the game was released commercially as Criss-Cross Words. Well, which is it?

Naturally my overly curious mind texted my OCD tendencies and I was forced to Google this conundrum. Now I have the down low on all things Scrabble. Let’s start with the inventor — Alfred Butts. I giggle every time I read his name because I picture someone sitting on their butt, daydreaming their day away until they invent the most famous board game of all. 

Actually he was sitting on his butt because he was an out of work architect with little to do but count the letters used on the front page of the New York Times — and turned it into a game. As for the name — it started out as Lexiko, then changed to Criss-Cross Words, and changed yet again to the word that makes me smile. 

Mr. Butts couldn’t seem to find any toy companies interested in getting behind the game so he had to make them in his garage. When the president of Macy’s came across the game, things finally went into motion. More than 100 million sets have been sold since then. 

Also on line was a 1950’s advertisement picture that showed a man and woman playing the game. It was laughable. She was sitting on the couch and he was in an armchair beside her, cigarette in hand, and both had their letters in their laps as they leaned over a coffee table. I can’t think of anything more uncomfortable than that (well, maybe standing on my head) and I don’t see how that picture won the honor of advertising the game. Of course people back then weren’t as hell-bent on winning as they are now. These days there are world championships in 22 nations.

I’ve participated in the Scrabble Games that raise money for Literacy several times but you only play four times per round so the games never get finished. I need closure.

I picked up an old game at a yard sale and put magnets on the tiles, then spelled out all my grandchildren’s names in Scrabble fashion on my fridge. It’s still there three years later.

Don’t even think about touching it. 


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