The Seven-Letter Word

What Scrabble addicts consider to be the Holy Grail

Mitch Ditkoff

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Photo by Freysteinn G. Jonsson on Unsplash

OK. I admit it. I’m a Scrabble addict — an online Scrabble addict to be more exact. There, I said it. If there was a Scrabble Anonymous, I’d be in it, confessing to my word-conjuring comrades the rush I feel every time I lay down the perfect 32-point word. Eleven games. That’s how many I have going on at any given moment. I’ve played more than 5,000 games in the past five years and have won 55% of them.

Methinks I’ve learned more about life from Scrabble than I did from four years of college. Canterbury Tales? The sonnets of William Shakespeare? How to drink oddball vodka concoctions until I fell down? Interesting pastimes, for sure, but nowhere near the insights I’ve gleaned from the game invented 76 years ago by the little known demi-God, Alfred Mosher Butts.

By my own calculations I’ve discovered 114 algorithmic variables to the game, subtle principles of play, point and counterpoint that need to be considered before making a move. And while chess is considered by many to be the more sophisticated game, there are strategically synaptic moments in Scrabble that reveal chess to be little more than Pin the Tail on the Donkey at a fourth grade birthday party.

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Like all great games, works of genius, love affairs, and near death experiences, there is a defining moment in Scrabble that reigns supreme — one existential, moon howling, Jonah-the-belly-of-the-whale moment that metaphorically speaking, I imagine was at least partially responsible for Van Gogh cutting off his ear.

I’m talking about the appearance of a perfect 7-letter word in one’s rack that cannot be placed on the board because there is no place to put it!

This word — this fabulous, pristine, classic, sacred, mellifluous, God-given, off-the-grid word DOES NOT FIT. It does not fit anywhere. Either the board is too cluttered, my opponent has sealed off all openings, or it just doesn’t connect to anything I see.

It just sits there. Inert. Unmoving. Zen koan-like. The first word of an acceptance speech I will never give.

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Mitch Ditkoff

Co-Founder of Idea Champions, Face The Music & Sage Catalysts. Author of Storytelling for the Revolution, Storytelling at Work, Unspoken Word and Free the Genie