I’m nowhere near app crazy, but I don’t know what I would do without Scrabble on my iPad. Like so many other aficionados, I have my own biases that apply to the game — adored vowels and unloved consonants, of course — as well as a kind of amazement at the incongruities that I often run across in this world of wordplay I admit consumes way too much of my time.
Since I use solo Scrabble as a way to relax, not to stress out, my opponent on the Pad is always NORM (as in “normal”), as a few encounters with his older, more artificially intelligent brother, HARD (as in “self-explanatory”), left me frazzled. (Youngest sibling, EASY, plays with the kiddies.) There are some advantages in competing against NORM: he doesn’t place seven-letter words, along with their 50-point bonuses, for example. (Fine with me!)
Lately, I’ve made a point of remembering some of those weird words that NORM often generates, so I can look up their definitions later. I don’t consider myself a slouch in the vocabulary department, but expressions like “dhow,” “mulct” and “foveae” can be stumpers. As both a lover of art and a language buff (though curiously never a big fan of crossword puzzles), I find these new discoveries little creations in themselves.
And there are always other surprises, including the astounding number of Spanish words that are now acceptable in the English Scrabble dictionary. (Definitely a plus if you’re bilingual.) And speaking of the dictionary (the app offers the Tournament Word List (TWL) version), I always check everything; many times the most impossible sounding words actually do exist.
Regular Scrabble players tend to have their idiosyncrasies. I’ve found my favorite vowels to be A and E, and I especially dislike C and V, as they’re the only two consonants that can’t be paired with a vowel for those indispensable two-letter words. And you must recall those anomalous two-consonant entries — like sh and hm — when you’re in a pinch.
A bit of controversy in Scrabble circles was created recently when a researcher unveiled a software program that allocates new values to letters like J, X, and Z — traditionally worth among the highest points in the game. The rationale is that as English has evolved (the original Scrabble debuted in the 1930s), those letters have ceased to be as infrequently found in the language. Forget about it, at least according to the 63 percent who voted “No Way!” in an online poll at Huffington Post.
I wonder what NORM would think…