Just Busy Enough

By Peg Goldstein, TFCB editor and author

Scrabble tiles

I play online Scrabble constantly. The only problem is finding suitable partners. People are so responsible. They say things like, “I’m too busy;” “I have to do my job;” “I have to take my son to the emergency room.” Where are their priorities?

If you have a Scrabble addiction, it helps to be underemployed. My former friend Izzy was the perfect partner. She’s an assistant manager at a gated community. As far as I can tell, this “full-time job” involves checking the chemicals in the swimming pool three times a summer, buying new Christmas lights from Hobby Lobby in December, receiving wine and cash gifts from the well-heeled residents at holiday time, and playing Scrabble online. At any given time, she’d have multiple games going with me, two of her brothers, and an old college friend.

By comparison, I’m practically Ms. Discipline. I don’t let Scrabble get in the way of my deadlines. One day I even told Izzy that I was “too busy” for Scrabble. She was mortified—as it was September and the pool was closed for the season. Thus she had nothing to do until her December trip to Hobby Lobby.

You’re probably all familiar with the old Hasbro Scrabble game. Four wooden racks, one hundred tiles, a foldable cardboard game board, and the classic old box from 1948. It’s amazing how many people can still pull out weathered Scrabble sets from the 1950s and 1960s, usually with a slip of yellowed paper tucked inside, with two columns labeled “Mom” and “Me,” with scores written in pencil. That’s not the only option anymore. Now the game’s online, and although apparently Hasbro has created its own online version, the game we play is Lexulous. It was formerly called Scrabulous, until a lawsuit with Hasbro forced the creators to change the name and modify the game.

I don’t go in for game rooms and competition with strangers. I like to know my opponents, and Lexulous allows you to play via e-mail with friends and acquaintances. My favorite Lexulous partner is my dear friend Sarah. Actually, she got me into the online game in the first place, and I was hooked from day one. We play by our own rules. We allow only words found in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, which we’ve both got loaded onto our desktops for easy lookup. We allow most of the two-letter words that the Lexulous people allow, but we don’t go in for those crazy Official Scrabble Players Dictionary words such as KUVASZ and PRENZIE. Sarah plays under the user name jlinsky, whose origins I’ve yet to uncover and which always reminds me of L. Trotsky. Bookish, bespectacled, and Bolshevik, he’d probably have loved Lexulous.

Sarah and I play tough. It’s all about focus. Never opening up a triple word score (unless you open one in the course of making a 102-point word). Layering with two-letter words—that sort of thing. We are not as fanatical as those tournament Scrabble guys featured in the book Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive SCRABBLE Players, but we care about winning, and when we start a game, we play at a fairly fast clip. We don’t play one word a day and then forget the game is still going, like some people I’ve had the displeasure of playing with.

My newest Lex partner is Caroline (of spelling bee fame [see my TFCB blog post of January 26]), who started out shaky but quickly got hip to strategy. She’s beat me a few times, although I can usually mop up the board with her.

It’s true that there are probably more important things in life than Lexulous, and I’ve often thought I could live without it. But then the e-mail arrives: “jlinsky has invited you for a game of Lexulous,” and the soup boils over on the stove, the bills go unpaid, and the swimming pool gets all screwy. The revolution will have wait for another day.

Check in next week for more from TFCB!

(CC photo of Scrabble tiles, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

One thought on “Just Busy Enough

  1. Anonymous

    ” I’ve often thought I could live without it.”


    This reminds me of the scene in “The Producers”–
    (the original, of course. As Queen sang, “There can be only one”–and btw, did you know Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar? Which I happen to know because I wrote the VGS book on Tanzania.
    How useful working for Lerner is for Trivial Pursuit, and possibly for Scrabble too?)
    –as I was saying, what you say about your relationship to Scrabble reminds me of Gene Wilder *totally* freaking out when Zero Mostel takes away his Blue Blanket;
    but then declaring
    “It's not important; it's a minor compulsion; I can deal with it if I want to.”

    Of course literate people know this scene well, but just in case anyone needs to refresh their memory, it's here:

    Funny you should ask. I'd tell you about it, but I must go check the salt level in the water softener now.


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