A blog for fans of Bananagrams, word games, puzzles, and amazing things

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Another reason Scrabble dictionaries are inadequate for Bananagrams

The Scrabble board is a 15-by-15 grid, so naturally, Scrabble dictionaries have no need for words longer than 15 letters. Oddly even "Super Scrabble" which is Scrabble played on a larger board and with more tiles, still uses the 15-letter limit.

Some 16-letter words for your consideration:


I can totally see someone staring off with "clocks" in their grid, turning it into "clockwise", and then in a brilliant burst of insight, combining it with "count" and some stray tiles to make "counterclockwise". If I ever pulled that off, I would be so proud that I wouldn't even care if I won the game. (OK, I'd still care, but either way it would be awesome.)

What is the longest word that you have ever used in a Bananagrams match? For those who like games with rounds that escalate, the must-contain-an-N-letter-word would be an interesting and challenging variation. How high can you go?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Scrabble Me: The chimera of Scrabble games

I recently ran across the strangest official Scrabble mutation that I have ever seen: "Scrabble Me"

It looks like, in addition to Scrabble Apple, the makers of Scrabble decided to make another game that fuses elements of Bananagrams with those of conventional Scrabble. This one is kind of a Frankenstein hybrid, so don't say I didn't warn you:

The game is divided into rounds. In each round, everyone uses up their tiles by building words on independent mini-Scrabble-boards. Then players score their words, draw new tiles, and continue building up their grids.

Unlike Scrabble Apple, which seemed to be fairly close to Bananagrams, with some Scrabble elements thrown in (scoring and double word score squares), Scrabble Me seems like it is deviating from the Scrabble - Bananagrams continuum. It's more random, in the sense that when someone uses a blank tile (called "wild" in this game), they have to swap their grid with someone else's. However, it is less random in the sense that there is a pool of face-up tiles that one can opt to draw from, instead of from the bag. It somehow reminds me of the card game Uno.

In the interest of trying to categorize these games, I've made this ASCII chart:

S |
P |
E |
E |

And there really ought to be a third-dimension where Scrabble Me towers above the others on the Uno-ness axis.

The reviews are sort of favorable though. In spite of the Frankenstein quality, I would like to try this game.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Palindromes you are most likely to be able to make in Appletters

Since making palindromes earns players bonus points in the Applescore game (as described in this previous post on Appletters), I've compiled a list of the palindromes you are most likely to be able to make during the game (really short ones or ones that use common letters).

Off the top of my head, using only the minimal length examples:

bib, bob
dad, deed, did, dud
eke, ere, eve, ewe, eye
gag, gig
noon, nun
pap, pep, pip, pop, pup
tat, tit, tot

And, of course, there is one Scrabble-legal letter combination that is two letters long and a palindrome: AA. A'a (pronounced /ah ah/) is a type of lava, which is thicker and more viscous than other types. It is characterized by flowing in a sporadic fashion and leaving a rough surface when it cools.

And if it's not already been suggested, then I propose a variation of Appletters called Palindrominoes: The word snake is formed as in regular Appleletters, but if you can form a palindrome where the base letter (the "head" of the snake, I suppose) is inside the palindrome, then you are permitted to position letters both above and below the end-tile, as shown in the example below:
e I
Then you can give the snake multiple heads, like a hydra or a planarian or something. A little extra chaos to spice up your Appletters game.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The games of Lewis Carroll

In addition to his anagramming prowess and his wonderfully surreal and whimsical stories, Lewis Carroll is known for creating numerous games and puzzles.

He is credited with the invention and popularization of the doublet (a.k.a, Word Ladder) in which one transforms one word into another, one letter at a time, with all the intermediary steps being legitimate words. Two examples:
          EAST          CAT
Admittedly, this is really more of a puzzle or a pastime than a game.

He spent much of his professional life tutoring students in mathematics and logic. He invented a game called The Game of Logic designed to teach the fundamentals of formal logic, using a unique way of representing logic propositions with a game board and colored tokens. The game is described in a book of the same name (available from Project Gutenberg (though they seem not to have gotten the figures right) and Amazon). Ultimately though, it seems to be for one player and seems rather like a puzzle.

Carroll also thought about and devised rules for playing billiards (the British sort, played on a table without pockets) on a circular table.

In 1880, he wrote in his diary that "A game might be made of letters, to be moved about on a chess-board till they form words.". Martin Gardner (famous for his writings on recreational mathematics) took such notes from the writings of Carroll and fleshed them out into a board game in which, as I understand it, letters are placed on the first row of a chessboard and can be moved like queens to form a word in the fifth row. Meanwhile your opponent is trying to do the same thing while blocking you. (Rows 2, 3, 6, and 7 are open to everyone.) Like Scrabble, once a word has been formed, more letters are drawn from a bag, and the first row is replenished. You can buy the game here. I am thinking of playing an improvised version with a chessboard and a set of Bananagrams tiles.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

History of anagrams: Anagramming as recreation and social skill

Anagrams were very popular during the 17th century, and particularly in France. King Louis XIII used anagrams as a recreational form of intellectual stimulation and source of entertainment for himself and members of his court. He formed some on his own and hired a Royal Anagrammatist whose sole task was to devise anagrams. A lot of these anagrams were based on the names of people, and particularly, on the name of the king with the theme being how great he was.

The book "Of Anagrams" by Henry Benjamin Wheatley (downloadable for free from its Google Books entry) says that "Anagrams were used by fine gentlemen to add pungency to their conversation". It cites Henry Peacham's "Compleat Gentleman" (written in 1634) which basically says that among the conversational skills of a gentleman ("merry tales, wittie questions and answers", "ingenious epigrams") should be the spontaneous spouting of anagrams. He gives the example of someone who was going to say "I must goe buy a dagger" but decided to switch around the letters and say "I must goe dye a beggar". [It's not strictly an anagram though; it's actually a rearrangement of sounds. A more precise description might be "anaphone".]

In the 19th century, it was popular to anagram the names of famous people (celebrities, I suppose). Lewis Carroll produced many such anagrams, including Florence Nightingale ("Flit on, cheering angel."), Disraeli ("I lead, sir."), and a politician of the time named William Ewart Gladstone ("Wild agitator means well!"). The popularity of anagramming at the time led to the Victorian game of Anagrams (previously described here and which now is sold under the name "Snatch") which was played by Alfred Butts as a child. His first attempts at inventing a game drew inspiration from the idea of anagramming as the basis of a game, to which he added a letter distribution like that of the English language. After a few more iterations, he converged on the game of Scrabble, which led to Speed Scrabble, which led to Bananagrams.