In what appears to be a bad case of timing from their reporters, The Wall Street Journal finally reported this week of a dramatic change in the world of Scrabble that took place in October 2005:
Words such as “ZA”, “QI”, and “ZZZ” were added recently, according to the WSJ. Apparently, “recently” means “in the past 4-5 years” to them.
Regardless, here at Web Watch we believe in making sure that you are not sucked into the same vortex of bad Scrabble-playing that the WSJ would lead you down if you had to wait a few years to discover that there had been a Scrabble dictionary update. So here are the list of handy two- and three- letter words that you should have at the ready the next time you need to impress your Scrabble-playing friends…along with the unexpected WSJ followup:
TWO LETTER WORDS
FE KI OI QI ZA
THREE LETTER WORDS
AGS AHI AHS APO APP BES CIG CRU DAN DEF DIF DUH EDS EEK FAB FES GOS IGG KIS KYE MEG MIC MYC NEG OBA ODA ONO PST QIS RAI SOM SUK URP UTE VID VUM YAG ZAS ZEP ZUZ ZZZ
In the WSJ’s defense, these word changes have just recently come to light due to a letter sent to the New Yorker magazine by Los Angeles attorney Matthew Butterick, discussing that while the additions to the official dictionary are fine, the point values assigned to previously-underused letters is now ridiculously out of step with current language usage. Mr. Butterick says that the “X” (8 pts) is more easily played than “C” (3 pts). That adding words that allow the “Z” and “Q” (10 pts each) to be more easily played has diluted their high-point worth. Even that using all seven tiles is more easily done by the knowledgable Scrabble player.
Butterick continued in a Scrabble followup printed in the ABA Journal that the points need to be adjusted to take into account the playing style of today’s wordsmiths, who like to build smaller words (“AX”) into larger words (“TAX”) on subsequent turns (“TAXES”).
The WSJ, not one to rest on their original article, knew that they had to get to the bottom of the story. So they contacted John Williams, executive director of the National Scrabble Association, for his insight.
Williams’ comment? He said that the issues raised by Butterick were “some combination of irrelevant, meaningless and impractical for 85% or 90% of people who play Scrabble.”
However, if you are in that top 5-10% of Scrabble players and want to see if you have what it takes to compete at a regional or nationwide level, check out CROSS-TABLES, a site dedicated to competitive Scrabble tournaments.
Don’t laugh – Dave Wiegand of Portland, Oregon, won $3000 by playing Scrabble for a few days. Something tells me that once you start winning money at playing Scrabble, you’re beyond worrying about whether the point values for X, Z, or Q are inflated or not.