Summer Scrabbling

Summer Scrabbling

In the mad scramble to clean, prep and paint the laundry room before our chest freezer was delivered, I found all manner of stored items that hadn’t seen the light of day in years. Sports equipment, old game console, Magic cards, VHS tapes, Trivial Pursuit Star Wars Classic edition, high school commencement programs from the 70s, paint ball guns and RC car parts. Among all the miscellany of two or three generations of Mosses, I rediscovered my competition Scrabble board and accessories (including my chess timer for tournament play).

A decade ago I had an itch to up my Scrabble game. I found a local chapter of the National Scrabble Association and began studying letter combinations. While they are technically words, their usefulness on a Scrabble board depends on their point value. Which is why, as a word nerd, I eventually lost interest in attending tournaments and competition Scrabble. Most high level Scrabble players don’t really care what the word means.

On a Monday evening, I talked Terry into playing a game of Scrabble after dinner. Even though my Scrabble board will rotate, I usually leave it orientated towards my opponent, so I’m playing upside down. It forces my brain to think of different less obvious plays. My first game in several years and I could tell how much I had forgotten.

Late in the game, Terry and I were both complaining about a plethora of vowels on our racks. Look closely at the cover photo above and you’ll see what I mean. Terry held his own and actually finished first, but I had an ‘ace’ in the hole – my final tile on my rack was one of the two blanks – so I subtracted nothing from my score. Terry still won the game, which is fine by me. I enjoyed the fun and challenge for a couple of hours that evening.

Almost a week later, we tried again and this time I was more prepared. In fact, I had two racks back-to-back with bingos I couldn’t play. On Turn 9, I drew tiles and ended up with ALOTTTED but no place to play it and I couldn’t think of any anagrams – later I looked up the anagrams for ALOTTED and found TOTALED and TOADLET, neither of which would have been playable. The very next turn, I drew SLA*TED (the asterisk is a blank) which had tons of anagrams but again no place to play the bingo. So frustrating.

Some of my highest scoring words were complete accidents: NIBBLES on turn 5 for 48 points was my highest scoring word, but my second to last play of the word AY/AH/YE scored 31 points by placing just two tiles. Of course, as I drew the remaining tiles in the bag, I ended up with Z, K and a blank together with a letter O already on my rack. I played ZONK off of SEW (to form SEWN) and left Terry with three tiles – T U V – on his rack for a total of six points to subtract from his score.

I had demanded a rematch after the first game, and now I just hope Terry will want to play again sometime soon. Meanwhile, I’m studying my two letter words, which have increased since I played last. I’m also studying vowel dumps and common bingo racks to watch out for.