Wordplay.

I am notoriously bad at Scrabble. What I have figured out is that I am not great at games where there is a lot of visual information to take in, like Nerts or Scrabble. I can’t see all of those things at once. In Scrabble, that means that I create words that start or end with one of the letters on the board, because I can’t “see” it quite as easily when the letters are in the middle.

I also get really irritated when I suck at Scrabble, which is pretty much always. But, come on. If you had to put up with Mike turning your “CAT” into “CATASTROPHE,” you’d get irritated, too. (That didn’t actually happen, but it could have happened. Because Mike is excellent at Scrabble. Similar, equally humiliating things have happened. On a triple word score.) I have gotten so irritated in the past that Mike put a ban on Scrabble at our house. I don’t think we have played since the great ice storm of 2002.

An aside: the first time I remember playing Scrabble was with my grandma. I was probably in late middle school or early high school. My grandma does crossword puzzles constantly and watches Wheel of Fortune every day. She is good at word games. This game of Scrabble was momentous because it’s the first time I remember being utterly humiliated by my grandma in a game. She had stopped letting me win a long time before, but that game of Scrabble was the first time I remember that she didn’t go easy on me. It was not just a loss, it was a devastating defeat that shook my Scrabble confidence.

That changed this weekend, though. A few weeks ago, we bought a cute table to play games on, and we had planned to play Scrabble when Mike got home from youth camp. I am not sure what made him change his mind about playing Scrabble with me, but I was determined to do better, both in the actual game and in my sportsmanship. And so, on Saturday, after going to the grocery store and doing some laundry, we played four games of Scrabble, ate cheese nips, and forgot to make dinner. Here are some interesting facts about those games.

-Mike got the 50 point bonus for using all his letters in one turn. I have never ever gotten the 50 point bonus. (I didn’t even know there was a bonus for using all your letters.) The word, for the record, was “INERRANT.” The last “T” was already on the board.

-We do allow some use of the dictionary, mostly for checking the spelling of words before we play them, but occasionally to see if something is actually a word before we put it down. We are aware that these are not official Scrabble rules, but there’s something to be said for keeping the peace.

-The dictionary we use is the only dictionary we own – a Webster’s that my mom owned when she was in college. It’s always fun to threaten to challenge a newer word that could not possibly be in that dictionary.

-My favorite word that I made was “JIHAD.” Come on, that’s an awesome word. I should be commended for it. I turned Mike’s “HAD” into “JIHAD.” Brilliant. And the “J” was on a triple letter square.

-I got the Q every single time. I am now brilliant at Q-without-U words like “QAT” and “QAID.”

What you want to know, though, is whether I won. At least, I hope you are rooting for me a little bit. The good news is that I finally won the last game we played on Saturday, and won it by quite a lot. The bad news is that it was not a sustainable victory, because we played two more games yesterday, and I won one by two points and lost one by two points. Statistically, those games were a draw. I have not yet gotten to the point where I can pound Mike into the ground on a regular basis. And, let’s face it, I probably never will. But at least I am now spelling words like “JIHAD” and “QUARKS” instead of “CAT.”

I still get really irritated when I am playing badly, and there’s some debate about the way I play the board (Mike says I’m too concerned with making sure the board is opening up, which causes me to sacrifice points instead of letting it open up on its own), but I think there has been some improvement. If I don’t feel so completely insecure about my Scrabble playing (often fed by comments such as, “I would expect you to be better at Scrabble”), I don’t get so upset. So my one victory went a long way in helping me be a better Scrabble player. And Mike swears that he didn’t let me win.

Right after we got married, we noticed that some of our friends had a continuous Scrabble game going on on their coffeetable. That’s the idea we’re going for here, because our new table has little drawers we can keep our letters in. Of course, continuous Scrabble is going to require that we stop a game in the middle, and if this weekend was any indication, I’m not sure that we’re going to be able to do that. And, really, don’t you think balanced diets are overrated? Cheese nips are where it’s at. We’re feeding our minds instead.

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