Sunday, February 3, 2008


So I have this gnawing suspicion that some of the people I'm in mortal Scrabulous battle with are cheating, asking the Anagram-o-matic 3000 for help. My games are littered with words, "words," like YTTRIA or ZARF or ABA or TMESIS. Tmesis? "Separation of parts of a compound word by one or more intervening words." You don't come across that word unless you're truly mining the Scrabble Dictionary. And there's the matter of the board: most people's Scrabble games look like one of those elementary-school crossword puzzles, mostly four and five-letter words sprawled across the board, intersecting over a single letter. But experienced players, guys ━ or robots ━ with the all the three-letter words memorized play out a game with big old blocks of letters, two by two, three by three, sometimes even four by four. Lots of words at once, that's how you score the big points.

I've never cheated at Scrabble. Well, that's not exactly true, and I can understand the motivation behind taking a second to get that anagram list, pre-organized by score for you. I've never cheated playing with a human opponent, but I haven't been quite as honest against the computer. I get a rack that's bad but not horrible, I'm sure there's a decent word in there somewhere but it's late and I don't want to re-arrange six vowels in my head. I ask for a hint, which is the stupidest, biggest waste-of-time thing you can possibly do with your computer. Because now you're just watching the computer play against itself, which is exactly why you're wasting five minutes playing Scrabulous in the first place. Like you'd sit in front of Tetris while the game shifts and rotates the pieces, "It's on level twelve! Damn, the computer's good!"

What's interesting is that my Scrabulous-cheating friends, or my alleged Scrabulous-cheating friends, suck at it. Turn after turn, it's the same characteristics: a high-scoring word no one's ever heard of, crossing a bunch of other words. Some letter combination that never appears in the English language (DJINN), or a word that's all diphthongs (AIOLI). It would be a different game if you had to define your word before you played it.

I hear "it" ━ winning ━ is addictive. Winning with a few electronic steroids running through your system is still probably more satisfying than losing honestly. Well, not so much for the other person, I suppose.


Mike said...

Well, I have a scrabble dictionary, but that's because I play a lot of scrabble with my family. We just bought super scrabble this winer. yayy!