Isn’t summer just glorious? Lazy, hazy days filled with sunshine, ice-cold Arnold Palmers and, if you’re lucky, some salty air and a good beach read.
I’m the first to admit that one of the best perks of my career in education is the summer vacation I am lucky enough to enjoy year after year. Each June, no matter my age, I eagerly swap my sensible shoes for flip flops and silence my alarm clock for good. (Take that, iPhone!)
Summer means visiting family and friends, traveling to familiar retreats and, of course, unleashing my inner Word Nerd. The welcomed batch of free time opens up worlds of possibilities in the literary department. I am able to spend the dog days indulgently making my way through the list of books I’ve had my eye on throughout the busy school year. At night, board games around the table are a must.
My favorite? Speed Scrabble. (Told you I was a Word Nerd.)
Speed Scrabble is a fast paced twist on the original classic. It has all the fun (yes, fun) of creating challenging crossword puzzles, but nixes the traditional game board approach in favor of a competitive race to the finish. It’s like Scrabble….on steroids.
I was first introduced to this high-stakes vocabulary adventure by my college roommate Kathryn, who also happens to be one of the most talented writers I know. She taught my family how to play one summer night around a table filled with salty snacks and melting ice cream. It has been a Henry favorite ever since…except for my husband, The Accountant, who hates it. (Oh, well, opposites attract, and all that…)
Wan’t to give it a try?
Speed Scrabble Rules
1. Choose Your Tiles
Dump all Scrabble tiles face down on the table and toss the board to the side. Each player chooses seven tiles (no peeking!) and leaves the remaining tile pile in the center of the table. On the starting command (Go! Start! Scrabble!) players turn over their tiles and begin to build an individual crossword puzzle using only their seven starting tiles. Regular rules apply: horizontal or vertical only, different words cannot touch, no proper nouns, etc. Once a player has successfully used all seven tiles in a complete crossword, they yell “Tile,” which means that they, and everyone else playing, must now reach back into the pile (still no peeking!) and pull out one more letter.
2. Build Your Board
Here’s the rub: Even if a player has not completed their crossword, upon hearing “Tile!” they must take a new tile and somehow incorporate it into their existing crossword. Puzzles are not set in stone and tiles can be moved however needed as the game progresses.
For example, in the picture on the right, this poor unfortunate soul must now figure out how to incorporate an “R” into their crossword. Where would you put it?
3. Add More Tiles
The game picks up speed and shouts of “Tile! Tile!” fill the air as players race against one another to finish their board first. As long as a tile pile remains in the center of the table, the dreaded command forces everyone to reach in and pull out a new letter (Please don’t be a Q! Oh no, a Z!) and rework their puzzles to accommodate the annoying additions.
4. Race To The Finish
Once all tiles have been scooped up from the center, the player to finish their crossword first wins! (Pending a word check, of course.) The game can either end here or, for the very brave, score is taken. The sum of each player’s remaining tiles becomes their score for that round, low scores being best. For example, if a player has B, H and C remaining, it is a score of 10 (3+4+3.)
Rounds continue until someone reaches an agreed upon high score. At that point, they lose and the player with the lowest score wins bragging rights and Word Nerd glory until a new game begins.
Warning: At times, Speed Scrabble can get pretty heated. Each unwelcome shout of “Tile” brings an unknown obstacle that will (most likely) frustrate and (most definitely) annoy. The elementary teacher in me must advise: You get what you get and you don’t get upset! (Or, at the very least, you don’t throw things.) For those uber-competitive players out there (you know who you are), as long as “Tile” is the only thing you shout out in the heat of the moment, you should leave the game with all friendships still in tact.
So tonight, as the summer sky fills with stars and a cool breeze begins to blow, gather up some friends, snacks and Scrabble tiles. You never know, perhaps there’s an inner Word Nerd waiting to be unleashed in all of us!