Scrabble

Because I’m a writer, people sometimes assume I’ll like word games. Which makes no sense to me. Do you spend your leisure time human resourcing or whatever it is you do to earn a living?

Thanks, but I get plenty of frustration and feelings of inadequacy from words during the day—I don’t need more in my off-hours. Especially not with the addition of a competitive element. It’s not my idea of a good time to face the possibility of being declared a loser at words. I prefer merely suspecting that’s the case.

(For additional proof that playing around with language in your free time is no fun, consider this off-hours and extremely unlucrative blog, where the posts get fewer and farther between all the time.)

I do enjoy crossword puzzles, and those undoubtedly fall in the word game category. But crosswords aren’t competitive and, though they can be mentally taxing, it’s not the type of taxing that requires strategy or speed. You just need a facility for puns (clue for 26-across from the puzzle in today’s Boston Globe: “‘Hey, who’s pretending to be rocker Liz?’”; answer: “That’s not Phair”; eyes: rolled).

Okay, well, you’ll also need some fluency in crosswordese, but you can pick that up. A good rule of thumb: When in doubt, answer “alee,” “stye,” or “OPEC.”

Don’t assume from my weakness for crossword puzzles that I have any fondness for Scrabble, even though it is described on the box as a “crossword game.” Fatally, Scrabble introduces other players and scorekeeping. Worst of all, it does away with the clues, meaning that your facility for puns gets you nowhere—an axiom you can apply to most areas of life, I’m sorry to report.

The game has even been known to cause marital strife, at least in my own marriage. Unlike me, my husband, Frank, is what you’d call a strategic thinker, so when he plays Scrabble he strives to maximize his letter tiles on each turn, working out in his head every conceivable combination to get the most points from triple letter and double word scores.

Consequently, he plays at a glacial pace I find excruciating. Sooner or later (usually sooner), I am liable to lose my patience and suggest he just put something down on the godforsaken board already because, I swear to heaven, I have seen stroke victims with aphasia produce words more quickly.

The great unsolved mystery, with regard to Scrabble, is this: Where does it come from?

I know the game is manufactured by Hasbro, but how did a copy end up in my possession? I don’t have any recollection of purchasing Scrabble or receiving it as a gift at any point in my past, and my husband says the same. So where did it come from? When was every household in America issued a copy of Scrabble and why don’t any of us remember the occasion?

The same goes for Monopoly, Taboo, and the decks of Uno cards we all own. I don’t play these games. I don’t even like these games. Why have I been cursed to carry them through life? What does it mean? What would happen if I got rid of one of them? Is that allowed? And if rocker Liz played Scrabble with me, what would that be?

(That would be Phair game, of course.)

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