“K-W-Y-J-I-B-O. Twenty-two points, plus triple-word score, plus 50 points for using all my letters. Game’s over, I’m outta here.”— Bart Simpson
As a kid I remember watching my parents play Scrabble with friends, Don and Lorean Clark. They’d all talk and laugh boisterously between intense word-creating silences.
My mom taught me the official Scrabble rules, but I learned other things by watching my dad including:
The Q and Z fling: Decades before the Official Scrabble dictionary allowed the words QI and ZA, getting stuck with the Q and Z and the 10 points each is valued at could mean the difference in close games. So when my dad had one (or both) on his rack near the end of the game, they’d often be discovered under the table after the game. If at all.
Use it in a sentence: After my dad would play a suspect word, Don Clark would cluck his teeth, exhale in disgust and demand my dad use it in a sentence. Now, I think they both knew that having to justify your play by giving it context was not actually a rule, but it became a point of pride for my dad to quickly whip up a believable sentence using his fake word. “UNJUNK—“Fred Sanford said the cabinet was UNJUNK so he could not sell it at his junk shop.”
Bumping/exploding the board: If he was hopelessly behind in a game, my dad would bump the board in an attempt to nullify it. The game board we used was the flat one that the 100 wooden tiles just lay on top of without the little ridges that hold them in place. Bumping the board didn’t always work because often opponents could reconstruct what words went where from memory. So, since our game board lay atop a Lazy Susan, my dad would, with the pretext of trying to swat a fly, smack a corner of the board and send tiles flying across the room. Game over.
All this Scrabble stuff is coming up because I recently began playing Scrabble on Facebook. I have played on the Internet Scrabble Club for years, but I quickly became addicted to Facebook Scrabble.
I intentionally use the word addicted because just like other things, Facebook Scrabble will hook you and it is very bad for you. Here’s what is bad for you about it: you cannot challenge.
The default position is that you cannot play a word that is not a word. That eliminates a key strategic component of the game.
It’s not about playing phony words. If I have the letters for the word SEATING I could also play the word TEASING, but I am more likely to want to play EATINGS or INGESTA, two acceptable but lesser-known words, that are more likely to induce a challenge from an opponent who would then lose their turn.
Worse yet, the dictionary and acceptable two-letter word list is right there open for all to see on Facebook Scrabble. That would have been like my dad poring over our World Book dictionary, finding a word (not UNJUNK) and playing it. What’s the fun in that?
Another equivalent would be playing an online Trivial Pursuit game that gave you the answers. Or playing basketball with a five-foot high hoop. Or poker with transparent cards.
I started the Fairfield-Suisun Scrabble Club five years ago (find us on Facebook) and while club players can choose to use the “cheat sheets” I provide, I never do. If my opponents want to use them when playing me that is fine, but my rule is if you beat me using a cheat sheet, you automatically forfeit any gloating privileges.
Hasbro’s Facebook Scrabble is an abomination that should be called Scrabble Lite. But Hasbro has something I don’t have: a receipt for the copyright.
So I will lament the decline of western civilization for a while and then . . . go play some Facebook Scrabble. I told you I was addicted.
Fairfield writer Tony Wade had a Facebook Scrabble Intervention, but sadly relapsed shortly after leaving the Word Ward at the Betty Ford Center. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.