Thursday, June 25, 2015

Alfred's Other Game

My dad is a Scrabble aficionado, enthusiast, devotee . . . 

(Excessive synonyms use is going to get tiresome, Scrabble themed post or no Scrabble themed post.)

So for Father's Day or more accurately for a time relatively close to Father's Day, a few bits about Scrabble.

In 1938, architect Alfred Butts made the Scrabble prototype. He chose the frequency and point value of letters by analyzing the front page of the New York Times, the Saturday Evening Post and the New York Herald Tribune . . . 

as would be reasonable to expect from most architects inventing a word game.

[A word game played] not with a jumble of letters but with a mixture so proportioned that the individual letters will occur in the same frequency as they do in normal word formation would have a proper speed and snap; an excellent balance between the skill of the players and the luck of the draw. - Alfred Butts

He had developed an earlier game Lexiko. Alfred and his friends made the games by hand, producing 12 games per hour. 

By August 1934 had sold eighty-four games, for $1.50 each, at a net loss of $20.43.

Alfred tried marketing the new word game as "Criss Cross Words," and then as "It." 
Evidently unemployed architect can make a brilliant game but remain naive to successful product branding.

In 1948, James Brunot bought the rights to manufacture the game and he changed the name to Scrabble.

Scrabble is from the Dutch schrabbelan meaning to claw, scrape or make scrawled writing. It is a much better name implying some swashbuckling action.

Brunot paid Butts a royalty of about two-and-a-half cents on each set sold. In 1949, Butts royalties totaled $149.27

In 1952, the president of Macy's played Scrabble on vacation and was surprised that his store did not sell the game. Sales went from 4,853 in 1951 to 3,798,555 in 1954

The instructions for first deluxe version of Scrabble were printed with errors in scoring. Obviously, Scrabble fans wrote in to express their extreme displeasure.


I feel sure Smith was keeping score on your hypothetical Scrabble game. [...] If I were Jones, I'd certainly never play with Smith (or LIFE) again. 

I doubt that Jones stands a chance of ever beating such slick-of-hand mathematics as that displayed by Smith.

Alfred invented a game similar to Scrabble and called it "Alfred's other game".  Not a success.

Butts calculated that his total income from his invention was $1,066,500, of which he once stated, "One-third [of the royalties] went to taxes. I gave one-third away, and the other third enabled me to have an enjoyable life." (New York Times obituary)

The world's largest game of Scrabble was played in Britain's Wembley Stadium to celebrate Scrabble's 50th birthday. Each tile measured 6ft square and took two men to lift. 

To celebrate Scrabble's 60th birthday, several games of Extreme Scrabble were played around the globe. 

A $31,800 Scrabble set was designed for the Prague Mind Sports Festival in 2012. The titles contain radio-frequency identification sensors and the board has corresponding sensors. There are also LED's and software to "dramatically light the playing surface." 

I would guess there are only so many ways to make watching Scrabble play interesting. 

However, a $31,800 price tag makes the Restoration Hardware WALL SCRABBLE® a deal at only $1495.

But if you are going to shell out money, support the artisans . . . Look . . . gorgeous . . . less than $200. Seriously, some amazing stuff.

Per Life Magazine (Dec. 1953) dogs liked the wood Scrabble tiles, and would eat "half a dozen at one sitting."

One in three homes in America and half of the homes in Great Britain have a game of Scrabble. (Draw your own English literacy conclusions.)

“Scrabble was invented by Nazis to piss off kids with dyslexia.” Eddie Izzard

Merriam-Webster added 5,000 new words in the 5th edition of the Scrabble Dictionary including Selfie, Hashtag, Frenemy and Bormance. (I'm going to lay down a little challenge for my dad. 2,000 Scabble points if you can define all four words.) 

In 2008, Hasbro considered adding apostrophes (') and hyphens (-) to the game. 

Over 150 million games have been sold in 121 countries. Games are produced in 31 different languages and in Braille.

“Remember, when you don’t know what to do, it never hurts to play Scrabble. It’s like reading the I Ching or tea leaves.” Kelly Link

Scrabble is the 2nd best-selling board game in U.S. history, after Monopoly.

It is estimated (I have no idea by whom) that over a million Scrabble tiles are missing. A significant stash have probably become hot crafting items. 

"Monopoly may end in tears, but its tensions are cruder, lacking the infinitely subtle shadings of irritation and acrimony provided by Scrabble." Craig Brown

You know there is substantial infatuation with an item if it can compete with Mason Jars as THE Wedding prop! 

(If you don't have a Pinterest Wedding board with popular Wedding props, someone in your immediate family does. They will be more than happy to show you.) 

A local ordinance in Atwoodville, Connecticut, prohibits people from playing Scrabble while waiting for a politician to speak.

“More of his friends were playing Scrabble now, in a knowing ironic way, triple-word-score-craving freaks, but it seemed to him like a game designed expressly to make him feel stupid and bored.” David Nicholls

Scrabble jewelry tiles are available in sterling silver, with black diamond letters for $149.

The most points that can be scored on the first go is 128 with muzjiks (Russian peasants).

The most commonly played word in competitive Scrabble is qi (life force.) 

In 1989, Phillip Appleby finished a game with 1049 points, the highest officially recorded score.

Dr Karl Khoshnaw holds the record for the highest word score in competition which was 392 points for caziques (plural of West Indian Chiefs). 

The longest word playable with only vowels is euouae (a Gregorian cadence) and the longest word with only consonants is crwth(s) (an old Welsh stringed instrument).

The word oxyphenbutazone is part of the single play yielding the highest possible score under American tournament Scrabble rules, scoring 1,780 points across three triple-word-score squares.

Ganesh Asirvatham played 25 Scrabble games at the same time and won 21 of them.

In a recent survey, board games emerged as the leading cause of disharmony during Christmas, with nearly a third of respondents admitting to cheating.

Charles Ryan, former chairman of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design cautioned, "There's no point in getting viciously competitive if everyone else is just there for a few hours of face-to-face, social fun." Wise Christmas words from the former chairman.

A national Scrabble champion and professional Scrabble consultant has several strategy tips of which I will share only two.
(You are welcome.)

Two letter words are going to get you through this game, so pay your respects.

Don’t use your S’s lightly. Save for something good.

I guessing if my dad knew "professional Scrabble consultant" was an option, he might have chosen an alternative occupation. Not too late to change! 

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