Scoring Deflation in Scrabble? Count Me Out

I’m a proud, long-time Scrabble nerd. And now the forces of evil are trying to mess with my game.

I first got into Scrabble as a teen. I started with the standard fold-out board before upgrading to the deluxe model, which rotated on a base (no more looking at tiles upside down!). I later picked up the compact travel edition with magnetized tiles — the Mini-Cooper of the Scrabble family.

Then there’s the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, a mainstay for those competitive matches. And yes, I have read the whole thing. Multiple times. (Which may or may not have been a contributing factor to my lack of dates as a teen.)

So, yeah, I’ve probably spent way too much time and money on my Scrabble obsession. But at least I’ve become really good. And it’s not because I have a spectacular vocabulary (I don’t, despite being a writer).

My special skill involves making the most of those colored boxes — Triple Word Score, Double Letter Score, etc — using minimal letters. There’s nothing better than scoring 36 points with a strategically placed “ZOO.” It’s doubly pleasing when my opponent has just laid down something lame like “SILENT” for 6 points.

Now, sad to say, my special skill is under attack. In March, the Wall Street Journal‘s Carl Bialik reported that some players are protesting the recent addition of three words to Scrabble’s official word list — za, qi and zzz — that make it too easy to score big. (See “Price Drop: Stocks, Homes, Now Triple-Word Scores.”)

Bialik added that “some Scrabble aficionados would like to see the rules changed — which would be the only change since Alfred Butts popularized the game in 1948.” Lowering the value of letters like Q, Z, X and J is one proposed solution. To which I reply: “NOOOO!”

In most areas of life, I don’t like inflation. Whether it’s grade inflation in college or steroids-fueled inflation of home runs in baseball, I almost always line up with the anti-inflation forces. Not in this case.

I don’t want to live in a world where it’s no longer possible to pull down a cool 30 points for a well-placed AXE. So, president of the International Scrabble Foundation, or whoever it is that decides these things, I beg you: For the love of God and all that is holy, keep the original tile values!

Thanks to Lisa O’Sullivan for the idea.

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