Scrabble With Charlie

Writhen, sajou, kygat, kagus, zamia, piu. Is this some kind of exotic incantation? A mysterious encrypted message? No, these are all acceptable entries in the game of Scrabble, even though they look like they came from the Dictionary of Never Used Words.

I play the Hasbro version of Scrabble on my Ipad. My opponent is the computer (I call him Charlie) and those are the kind of words he throws at me. I have set the level to “advanced” knowing full well that my cyber-opponent will win far more often than I do. I am not a masochist, but I like the challenge, and it is less humiliating to be beaten by a computer than by a human being.

(editor’s note…I have played Scrabble with Simone about a million times and she almost never loses)

The game has a feature called “teacher” which rates my moves (“hmm” “good” “excellent” “outstanding”) You can get an “outstanding” for a word like “too” if that is all that can be done with the letters on your tray. So it is not the beauty of the word that is scored. Charlie is ruthless in his evaluations of my play. If I place all 7 tiles (Scrabble players call this a “bingo”), he will still withhold his “outstanding” if I could have spelled a higher value word with those 7 tiles.

I have learned a few things:

1. Never be satisfied with your first result even if it seems great to you. Keep looking until you feel that’s all that can be done. Fortunately there is no clock ticking and Charlie waits patiently for me.

2. A long word is not necessarily better than a short one. A judiciously placed j, q or z can earn you a much better score with just 2 letters.

3. Try to play parallel to existing words, touching as many letters on the board as possible, instead of always playing perpendicularly.

4. Practice games of jumble or anagrams so you can easily recognize patterns as you shuffle your letters. (and do shuffle your letters!)

I have also noticed that Charlie only cares about the maximum score on each turn. I, on the other hand, like to play strategically, usually hanging on to an “s” or a blank in the hopes of getting a better use for it later even if it means scoring a little lower now. I also guard against giving him an opening on the triple word space. I love to vanquish him.

This I did not have to learn: Have fun and enjoy the game.

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2 comments

  1. Posting a comment that came in from a friend:

    Also thanks for starting “Simone Says!” They are smart and delightful columns. The latest post about Scrabble with Charlie reminded us of “60 Minutes'” loveable curmudgeon Andy Rooney.

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