Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Questioning Qwyjibo

Quivering Quaaludes! Quit dallying around and enter my From A to Z Contest, with over $100 in prizes!

qwy•ji•bo (kwi-jee-boh) n. A big, dumb North American ape with no chin and a short temper.1

I was raised on Scrabble. Not literally — there wasn't need for that much fiber in my diet — but my sister and I did have fierce Scrabble competitions throughout our childhood and well into our 20s. This was in part because we enjoyed the game, and in part because no one else would play the game with us more than once or twice.

Why did our friends and family forsake us, you ask? Well, apparently they didn't like being trounced regularly by 100-200 points. We might not have had the skills of the Scrabbly grandmasters, but we knew all the best techniques and most of the most important words. If either of us scored fewer than 30 points on our turn, we were disappointed.

Some of our techniques:
  • Aim for the multipliers. Unless you hit a double-word score or triple-letter score, odds are you won't net many points. In the same vein, try not to give your opponents access to the triple-word score spaces. With the right letters, they may lay a SMACKDOWN on your ASS.2
  • Go for two. Crisscrossing words isn't usually as effective as layering. If you lay down a word directly beneath (or alongside) one already on the board, and create a series of 2- or 3-letter words, the points will really start to add up. Especially if you hit a multiplier as well.3
  • Manage your rack. One of the best ways to up your score is with bingos; using all 7 of your tiles gets you an extra 50 points. When you're deciding which word to play, sometimes it's better to go with one that'll leave a better combination of tiles on your rack, even if you might get fewer points initially. I mean, which would you rather have on your next turn: AIDS or DVDS?4
Some of the words:
  • 2-letter words. There are currently 101 valid 2-letter words, involving every letter except C and V, and it's even better if you know what letters can turn them into 3-letter words. The most valuable ones use the high-scoring letters: AX, EX, JO, KA, KI, OX, QI, XI, XU, ZA.5
  • Q words without U. There are 33 of these, including: QAT, QAID, QOPH, FAQIR, SHEQEL, QINTAR, and the keyboardtastic QWERTY.
  • Vowel dumps. Have too many vowels? Lay down a vowel-heavy word to get them out of your hand. Something like: AA, OE, UNAU, AALII, AUREI, COOEE, OURIE, and MIAOU. Oooh, that's good stuff. (But OOOH isn't.)
  • Consonant-only words. Too many consonants? There are about 20 of these (more, if you include that shifty Y), such as: BRRR, CRWTH, CWM, HM, MM, NTH, PFFT, and TSKTSK. Mm hm, that's right.
So there you have it. With this new knowledge and a little practice, you can take your Scrabble game to the next level. Or, you know, to your friend's house. Where you can play it. And beat him. And gloat.6

1 For those of you who are not avid Simpsons fans, the word qwyjibo was used by Bart during a game of Scrabble in the second ever episode of the show. For those of you who are avid Simpsons fans, I realize that the correct spelling is "kwyjibo." This is exactly why I'm questioning "qwyjibo."
2 No, not really. SMACKDOWN is not an acceptable word. Also, ASS? Honestly? What are you, 12? ASS is a complete waste of two good S's.
3 Don't actually hit the multiplier. It's a figure of speech. The board will shake and the tiles will go flying everywhere, and Mitzie will run off with the U-tile in her mouth, which is quite strange because usually Mitzie's pretty sedate for an 80-year-old.
4 Don't answer that.
5 ZA, as in pizza. I wish I was kidding.
6 If you happen to lose, beat him over the head with the box. Then gloat about it.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Arlee Bird and seven others. Go check out the other participants!


  1. Scrabble, eh? Somehow, I don't see that happening for me. I'm really more of a Solitaire kinda dude. But awesomeness on the creativity for Q anyhow!

  2. I love Scrabble! But I'm one of those annoying people who gets way too competitive... Yeah.

  3. I am printing these great tips and tucking them in my pants. My Mom LOVES Scrabble and makes me play whenever I visit. I'm going there this weekend with new ammo thanks to you!

  4. i never get to play scrabble or boggle as much as i want. Boo on my family.

  5. I had no idea you were a scrabble fan, forget fantasy baseball-- we should play scrabble online.
    Don and I used to play online once a week for a while.
    He's pretty good, but I'm better.

  6. Never thought I would chuckle so much at a description of how to up your scrabble game !


  7. I totally got the Simpson reference! I was laughing the second I saw the title of this post! I just downloaded the scrabble app on my iPhone, now off to play

  8. That's why I enjoy playing Scrabble on my iPad. Still after that 600 point game, though!

  9. As an avid Scrabble player, I'm writing every single one of those "Q" words down. I think I've used about three of them....

    Now, here is what I don't understand: I am beyond HORRIBLE in Scrabble, yet I'm rarely defeated in a Words with Friends match. Does this make any sense???

  10. Hey dude,
    My goodness, after reading this posting in that ongoing fascinating 'alphabet challenge' or whatever the heck it is, I think my mind, or what's left of it, is getting even more scrabbled:)
    I'm impressed with you enjoying the fine game of Scrabble. Did I mention I've never lost an 'egg and spoon race'?
    And now then, my friend, what letter 'R' you doing next in this gosh darn fun alphabet challenge? :)
    Nice one. Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet star and my shy and humble self, think you do one heck of a good blog.
    Take care and kind wishes, Gary

  11. Jeffrey: Come on... everybody's doing it...

    Talli: " of those annoying people who gets way too competitive..." Perfect! When do you want to play?

    Mary: So wait, you're going to wear those same pants until after you visit your mom?

    Falen: Boo, indeed. Come visit my family. We-- well, we used to play Scrabble and Boggle...

    Todd: You're right; we should play. Especially since my hitters are all a bunch of scrubs this year. Plus, six of my players are on the DL.

    RJR: Thanks for the compliment. I always try to entertain; that way, even if someone doesn't care for my advice, they'll keep reading.

    baygirl: I love having inside jokes with people I've never met... Thank you, Simpsons.

    Alex: I'd have to ask my sister, but I believe I may have broken 600 once. The letters were just falling for me that day; I got three bingos in a row, maybe five overall.

    Paul: Perhaps it's the different letter distribution, or the varied arrangement of the board, that somehow fits your style of play perfectly. Or maybe you cheat. Do you cheat?

    Gary: No, I don't think you'd ever mentioned that (to me, anyway) about the egg-and-spoon. Well done! And as for the next letter, I may just have to channel my inner pirate.

  12. you are wise to have a strategy - this is a potentially vicious game

  13. I love Scrabble - one of my favorite board games. I'm a serious player too, so once that game gets's on.

  14. David: There's no potentially about it. When I play my sister, it's vicious.

    Liz: How serious? Have you ever played Super Scrabble, with the bigger board and quadruple word and letter scores? Those games can last twice as long and net scores of 1000+ points.

  15. "manage your rack"...words to live by...I never thought to apply them to Scrabble, however...look at her, she sure has a well managed rack...context is everything, I guess.

    Now I know why you are such an ace at this challenge, however, mr. glossologist


  16. moe: And now, next time I see a woman playing Scrabble, I'm going to have to compliment her on her rack. As for the Challenge, I guess I have two things going for me: 1) I loves me some linguistics, and b) for the first time that I can recall, I put procrastination on the back burner and wrote stuff ahead of time.

  17. My best start ever was a bingo on my very first turn (on the triple word score to boot) - HALOGENS...ah, those were the days. My Hungry, Hungry Hippos game needs work, however.

  18. Makya: Congrats on the bulbous bingo! As for your HHH skills, you need to be one with your hippo. For 5-10 minutes every day, practice snatching marbles off the table with your mouth.