Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas

We're not quite at the "partridge in a pear tree" stage of the month yet, but I thought you might all enjoy this review, by Larry Urdang, of Thomas L. Bernard's The Twelve Days of Christmas: The Mystery and The Meaning, from Vol. XXI/3:

Professor Bernard, who teaches at Springfield College, became intrigued with the lyrics to the Christmas song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, when he first noticed the virtual redundancy of partridge and perdrix, the Latin word for the bird, leading him to surmise that the words in a pear tree could well have been Norman French for `en a perdrix,' or words to that effect. He allowed himself to succumb to the intrigue and, using his imagination and talent for research, traced out the other eleven days' worth of gifts as a solution to a conundrum.

Although there are several versions of the song, its earliest record is in a 13th-century manuscript in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. Bernard not only carefully documents his ideas about the various interpretations that might be given the curiously anomalous references in the song but suggests possible variants. At bottom, his conjecture is that the entire song relates to a pilgrimage to Jerusalem from England, where (two) turtle doves is interpreted as `de tour Douvres,' whither one must go to cross to France, to `lors de Liban,' yielding (eleven) lords a-leaping. Each step of the way the reader is increasingly persuaded that Bernard has taken the right road, but I shall leave the remaining details of the expedition to buyers of the book. The entire theory is so engaging, charming, and delightful that one hesitates to find fault with any one of it; doing so would be like denying the existence of Santa Claus.

Each of the Twelve Days is illustrated by suitably warm and friendly drawings by Scott Partridge (warranted personally by Bernard to be neither a nom de plume, de guerre, nor de chanson).

(Click on the link above to order this book through

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

You've Got Game!

It's almost time for holiday shopping, so we've collated SIX YEARS of Gloria Rosenthal's "You've Got Game" game reviews here in one humongous blog post for you! Here are all the games she's reviewed -- have fun!

One of the joys of being a word person is converting others to word-personhood. Holidays are perfect opportunities to make word-lovers out of your friends and relations through the giving of wordy presents, especially exciting word games.

The following list includes "brand new this year" games, "within the last few years" games, and "classics we love but need a reminder" games. I've played every game listed here so I know whereof I praise.

Age categories are exactly as stated in the rules (whether "12 to adult" "12 and up", etc.). We've covered everything from stocking stuffers to eight days of gifts.

Here, then, are my favorite games. These games made the list because they are eminently playable with easy-to-understand rules and good packaging containing high-quality components. A few games are not technically "word games" but are related in a way sure to please "wordy" people. In short, these are the games you want to grab when somebody says, "Let the games begin." Now, play nice, don't fight!

Apples to Apples: Apple Crate Edition
12 to adult, 4-10 players New this year: an elegant wooden "crate" of Apples to Apples, a game where players match characteristics on green cards to a person, place, thing or event on red cards. The beautifully crafted crate holds more than 1,000 cards from the original game and two expansion sets. And Apples is the only game where you can go online and create your own cards that fit into the game exactly like those already there. (I did it and have a whole set on Broadway theater.)

Oxford Dilemma Trivia Game
12 and up, 2-6 players One of two worthwhile spelling games on this list. This one has a board, money, cards with three levels of spelling difficulty on each, bonus words, a scholarship fund, and a dreaded Eight Ball causing bankruptcy. But wait! You can stay in the game by taking out a student loan. A variation of play, when a player must first identify the word to be spelled by its definition alone adds another dimension. So what two words fit this definition: a great game to give as gifts? All right, spell Oxford Dilemma.

teen to adult, 2 or more players Blue, green, pink and gray cards describe each play. Colors determine the various challenges: list all the words you can think of relating to a specific category (e.g. "superstitions"); write words for six different categories beginning with the letter indicated by a spinner; write words beginning with the letter designated by the spinner, plus the letters on the card, and more. Everybody ponders and writes at the same time and every game is different, depending on color, card, luck, skill and speed (timer included).

Visual Eyes
8 and up, 2 to 8 or more players Can you see pictures of a smashed bottle and a calendar page and think: "broken date?" Not so easy when you're picking these images out of 18 different pictures on extra large dice, all on view for all to see. You must make the connection before anyone else does, or before time runs out. A clock may represent "hands", "time", "face", "minutes", "hours" but a doorway may not be accepted as "enter." That's why VisualEyes is hilariously unpredictable. Each time you play, you see something else in the dice. Part of the fun is discovering what the pictures represent to different players. Play nice, don't fight.

10 and up, 4 players or 4 teams of players Here we have lettered tiles, white plastic racks (called easels) on which to build your words and an elegant black velvet bag to hold the pretty blue tiles. You make words by putting together letters from the board, the bag or opponents'easels and rearrange them, anagram-like. We don't normally condone lawlessness but the "stealing" feature in this game is fetching, in every sense of the word. It is fun, brain-tweaking and fast (an innovative, stand-up digital timer is watching you). And it all comes packaged in a book-like box with a magnetic closing. Neat!

Word Rich
all ages 9-99, 2-4 players In my quest for new and different word games I found Word Rich and struck it rich. A pouch holds letter discs in red (hearts), blue (spades), green (clubs) and yellow (diamonds). The gameboard has spaces for right-side-up discs and face-down discs. Players try to make a word by selecting one disc from the pouch and picking letters from the board. Select a face-down disc for bonus points but beware! There is a penalty for not using a bonus letter once picked. Scoring is slightly complicated but will soon settle in your brain and have you striving for extra points in a Basic Flush or a Royal Flush (both requiring letters in same suit and other requirements). You might call this Scrabble meets poker.

A to Z
8 and up, 2 to 4 players or teams Each player has a plastic board with letters of the alphabet from A to Z in place. The object is to fill your board with chips as you call off names of items in a specific category (determined by roll of a die and cards). If you have to name things found in a doctor's office, you would announce all you can think of in that category such as nurse and magazines, and cover the n and m on your board. Time of each move is determined by another die and 15 or 30 seconds is clocked on a<\m>take warning!<\m>noisy flip-over timer. You might roll other choices; cover any single letter or remove chips from another player's board, foiling a near win, perhaps. Fill your card and Bingo! (Oops! wrong game), you've won.

10 to adult, 2 to 6 teams Take the word life, for example, a word the die "told you to play" so you write every phrase you can think of (in time allotted): that's life; life of the party, get a life. It's fun and easy. But -- there is often a "but" in word games -- you and your teammate must match each other exactly to gain the right to move on the board; three matches = three moves. There is some leniency: Los Angeles and L.A, are matches, but not erase and eraser. Make those matches, earn those moves, reach that finish line.

9 to adult, 1 to 12 players If you've ever been tempted to construct crossword puzzles, you might want to buy this game for yourself, as well as for gifts. Each player draws nine tiles and starts creating his or her own crossword. The first player to use all nine tiles yells "Draw" and all players draw another tile to be added to their personal crosswords. Rearranging of letters is not only allowed, it is encouraged. The game proceeds until all tiles are used and one player announces "Done." Illegal words (as specified in most words games) and misspelled words are removed and the player with the least number of "leftover letters" is the winner. This game is fast, furious and so much fun there will not be a "cross word" spoken.

8 to adult, 2 to 8 players and teams Was there ever a word game where the players received bonus points for the shortest word? Well, there is now and furthermore, if the words are of equal length, the word with more vowels is declared shorter. Each player starts with three "Starters" (letter cards) and must write down the shortest word using these letters, not necessarily contiguous, but in the same order as drawn. After the word is announced, another player can beat it by coming up with a shorter word. Just for the fun of it, what is the shortest word you can think of using the "Starters" in this order: a g g? We think you will be agog when you find an answer to that.

Who Said That? Trivia Game
2-6 adult players Why are we including a game of quotations in an article about word games? Well, really, what better way to honor our language than remembering who said what? This game features some of the best quotes in entertainment, sports, the news, history, politics and more! If a player correctly names the source, he or she moves two spaces on the board. If you're stumped, a hint is available on every card with the loss of one space in your move for that help. "You're shagadelic, baby!" is right there on the box. Who said that?

12 and up, 4 or more players "Coodju" spell uncouth backwards? How about skipping every other letter in occasional? Other spelling twists are: normal (go ahead, spell armadillo), consonants only, vowels only, and more. The toss of one die tells you how you are to spell the word and the other gives you various point advantages. Cards list the five words you are to spell plus a bonus word and a one-minute timer keeps you spelling. All right, now, spell "I WANT THAT GAME", vowels only.

10 and up, 4 or more players in teams In another game on the list, Imatchination, players are required to come up with phrases relating to a certain word. Here we have another variation on the theme. The buzzword is at the top of the card followed by ten clues, each leading to a phrase incorporating that word. In the case of the buzzword apple, a clue is New York's nickname (The Big Apple). Scoring is done on an erasable scoreboard, marker included, as is a sand timer. Instructions tell you to "give a hearty Buzzzz!" when time runs out, which is happening right here. Buzzzz!

8 and up, 1 to 8 players Word card games are great; at home, in bed (terrific solitaire here) on a plane, anywhere. Cards have letters, letters make words, players gets points. The first round starts with three cards per player and each round adds another card to your hand until you're playing with ten cards in the final round. The calligraphy on Quiddler cards is very unusual, and the rules state that "The letters shown in the center of the cards were inspired by Celtic manuscripts from 500&em;800 AD."

Spill & Spell
8 to adult, 1 or more players The name says it all. Spill the dice out onto the playing surface and spell words. But wait<\m>do it in crossword style while a timer is taunting you. Scoring is quick and easy and longer words add up to higher scores. Rules suggest a variation: pick a category: sports words, slang words, movie titles, even people you know. If your words fall into the chosen category, the score is doubled for that word (or words, if you're really hot!).

Play On Words
8 to adult, 2 to 4 players All word card games are not alike! In this game a Challenge card dictates how many: (three four-letter words) and what kind: Pure (all in one color) or Mixed (at least two colors) are to be laid down. The value of each card is listed on the card, along with bonus points, and that's a plus when adding up scores. The first player to play all the cards in his or her hand also gets the points of cards left in opponents'hands. An extra feature: a score sheet is printed in the rules to be easily copied. Make many copies. You will be playing this game often!

My Word!
12 to adult, 2-6 players My word! Here is yet another version of a word card game, summed up in the opening of the rules: Earn points by quickly finding words from Letter Cards being dealt to the center of the table. Calling out words as cards are landing on the table makes this game unique and keeps the brain continually perking. They call this "Fast and Fun Wordplay." Take our word for it, it is.

8 and up, 1 or more players We did not think another word card game would be different enough to include but we were wrong. Three letter cards are dealt and all players (at the same time) try to think of words using those letters, in the same order, left to right or right to left (which in itself is unique and adds to the brain tweaking). First player to shout out a correct word keeps the cards, which count in scoring. There are excellent variations and we really NJY this game!

Old favorites: Scrabble Deluxe
8 to adult, 2 to 4 players You know Scrabble (unless you're from another planet), but this deluxe version, with a rotating turntable, is a glorious "new" gift.

Also, Scrabble Folio (travel) 8 to adult, 2 to 4 players Everything you ever wanted in a Scrabble set to take with you in a great compact version.

12 to adult 2 to 6 players Another category-naming game has players making lists (TV shows, breakfast foods, etc) of words starting with the same letter determined by a spin.

4 or more players, 12 to adult Can you describe the contents of this article without saying: word, game, gift, price, players? In Taboo you must convey the card's Guess Word without using any of five taboo words.

2 to 4 players, ages 10 to adult If you ever wished you could place a letter on top of a Scrabble word to change, e.g., groom to broom, play this game where you create new words out of words already on the board.

10 and up, 4 or more players The opening line in the rules states that "LINQ is a word-based game that requires both bluffing and brain power to outwit your opponents." In every hand that's dealt, two players have identical words on their cards, others have a ? denoting a bluff. The trick is for the paired players to find each other and for other players to find the players who are "Linq-ed." This is done when all players give one clue word to define the word on his or her card, or a bluffed definition. A designated Scribe keeps scores on a terrific wipe-off Score Board and everything else needed in this game -- Clue Board, Guess Sheets, Dry-Erase Makers, pencils, 240 Paired LINQ Cards and 10 bluff cards--are included. This is fully-contained game done up in beautiful style.

3 or more adult players They say this game has been known to get a little wild but that's part of the fun as you try to match real advertising slogans to products. The wackier your match, the more hilarious the game. The rules are loaded with advertising lingo as players try to outwit other "advertising agencies", and the rules state: If there are products listed that you don't recognize or understand, you are definitely too young to play this game. Please leave the table now. The game gets a bit complicated with money being made and lost and it can cost $500,000 to hire a SpokesCelebrity but it is money well spent as you must have three such SpokesCelebrities to win the game. If advertising drives you a little nuts, make a game of it.

Don't Quote Me
14 to adult, 2 to 5 players (or teams) The quality and design of this game will impress you at once and then you will say What? I have to assemble the game board? Yes, you do and it's an innovative, interlocking pentagon. The goal is for players to identify speakers in Life & Literature, Sports, Leaders, The Arts and Pop Culture. Help is there in the form of hints, but you give up points when using them. Example: knowing who said "A sucker is born every minute" is worth three points, needing the two hints supplied with each quote, in this case Greatest Show and Tom Thumb, reduces it to two points, and going, finally, to multiple choice: Robert Ripley, Charles Ringling, P.T. Barnum, means one point. The beauty of clear, concise rules, brief biographies behind every quote, strategy cards, Double Point spaces on the board and team play combine to make this a game you will never tire of playing. And you may quote me!

Red-Handed 2 to 6 players, teen to adult Can every single question in this game be answered with a color? If you think not, I'll bet my greenbacks against your blue jeans that I'm not telling a little white lie! Some are easy as in what comes after roses are red and some are not but all are fun and challenging. You have to accurately recite the phrase, in many cases, to move on the board. The board might tell you to: Give 1 card to Any Player, or invite you to have Free Choice of Color. But don't get caught red-handed. All 450 cards are grouped by color and within each group, there are variations. Blue, e.g. takes in purple, navy, hazel and violet. A very big plus in this fast-moving game is that the first player to collect five Score Cards without having a Red-Handed card is the winner, a nice break from elaborate score-keeping. The day you buy and play this game will be a red-letter day, indeed.

Super Scrabble
2 to 4 players, 8 to adult Wow! It's a big board with the usual complement of double squares, triple squares plus a huge bonus of quadruple letter and words. If a word covers two premium squares the score is doubled and re-doubled (4 times the letter count) and tripled and re-tripled (9 times the letter count). The other bonus is the additional letter distribution of high pointers: two each of Q, X, Z, J, K and 4 blanks. It's like falling into Scrabble Heaven. Attractive enclosures include the History of Scrabble, Rules of Play and Tips and Ten Ways to Become an Instant Scrabble Game Expert, the last extremely helpful even if you've been playing Scrabble for years (and who hasn't!). You might need a math whiz or calculator to add up these score.

3 to 8 players, 12 and up Imaginiff has been tickling players for several years and even players of three different generations can actually play together and all have fun. With its erasable marker you write the names of eight people on the board, naming present players, absent friends or even famous people. The object is to guess how these people would react in certain situations. The situations are imaginative. Let's say, for example, that a roll of the die selects Susie, and the card picked asks if she were a 1950s movie, which would she be? From the six choices on the card, everyone, knowing Susie bleaches her hair, picks Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Players with the most popular answers move their tokens on the board. Everyone loves it (except maybe Susie who thought her bleached hair was a secret!).

One-Two Punch
2 to 6 players, teen to adult All right, I said some games were not technically word games but this is so much fun, and so amazing, I had to include it. Besides, if a question is: Phrase meaning the whole shebang, and the player has to come up with the whole nine yards that's wordy enough for me. The amazing part is that 500 questions have numbers in their answers. The game card categories are: 1 liners (proverbs, nursery rhymes, popular sayings), 2 for the show (TV, movies), Knock 3 times (books and music), 4 Score (sports, games, history, government), 9 to 5 (things that may be part of your everyday life). The game board has a variety of spaces that indicate the question category or give a free roll of the dice and even lets a player steal tiles (which are won along the way) from an opponent. I'm reconsidering. This is definitely a word game!

4 to 10 players, 12 to adult The short version: Players take turns giving up to 3 clues that will lead others to guess the Proclaim! word. But wait! This is tricky. The clue giver doesn't want opponents to guess it right away as the fewer clues needed, the more points they'll score. So the clue giver wants to be slightly ambiguous to make it tougher, but not so tough as to make it impossible, for if nobody guesses the word, the clue giver must move back three spaces on the board. Clues are restricted to one word or a combination of a blank and one word (e.g. clue for method could be system or Blank acting). The 240 cards yield 960 words. Also included are 3 dice used for scoring, 30-second timer, scoring cards, game pieces and a game board with special Proclaim! spaces and a Proclaim! pit. I've clued you in, now go play!

2 or more players, 10 and up If you think a "words person" can't switch allegiance to become an ardent poker player, then you haven't met Read 'em, a fascinating card game. Regular poker players have to get used to new suits, crowns, anchors and stars. The rest of the terminology is familiar to them, and will soon be to wordy converts. All the intricacies of poker are here, flush, four of a kind, full house, three of a kind, two pairs, one pair, and wild cards. Even if you've never played poker before you will quickly learn how to play Five Card Draw, Seven Card Stud and how to bet, call, raise or fold. And you will do all this while putting letters together to make better words than your opponents. The end of the game is easy to see: one player has all the chips, or other players have quit. Shuffle those cards and start dealing.

Smarty Party
3 to 8 players, 10 and up 1) Can you name the Rooms in the game Clue? That is one of the challenges in Smarty Party, and how cool is it for one game to bring up another? And how cool is it to have two of each color token so every player has one to put on the comical board, and one to keep as a reminder of his or her color? There are many more innovative features of this game; a pair of Smarty Pants that goes from one player to another when questions are answered correctly (and benefits the player who ends up with it). The questions on the 100 List cards are fun (as above) and challenging as in 2) Most common words in written English. Answer 1: dining room, study, ballroom. . . and 2: the, of, to, in. . . . We are not that smart, we put the card into the cleverly designed list holder and the answers showed up. With all that plus timer, chips and wagering rules, you have everything you need to have your own Smarty Party!

Letter Flip
2 players, 10 to adult We can't resist, we have to say we "flipped" over LetterFlip. Each cleverly constructed "letterflipper" tray holds the full alphabet and the firm plastic letters are flipped up at start of play and flipped down when each is called. Players try to guess each other's words from cards that have 3, 4, 5 and 6-letter words to be guessed, in turn. When incorrect letters are called they are flipped down while correct letters remain standing and tracking tabs on the letters are pulled up to indicate how many times that letter appears in the word. A window on the side of the letterflipper shows the current word (hidden from the other player). There are standard and advanced cards and a suggestion for junior play. Everything needed to play is contained in a travel-worthy package; no board or table needed, no pencil and paper for scoring. Guesses play an important role, too. If, for example, letters f and n have already been called correct, your immediate thought will be fun!

Like Minds
4 or more adult players This game contains a brain (to be grabbed by a player as the game progresses). But before that, all the players' brains will be perking as they try to write a list for the category their teammates are doing at the same time. An example of categories will start you thinking even as you read this: famous cats, types of stores in a mall, shades of green and my personal favorite, things teenagers do in their spare time. Other games have this challenge but Like Minds goes further. A die will tell how many matches teammates must make in order to move ahead on the board. Another innovation we've never seen before: teammates are each moving a marker, trying to get the markers to meet in the brain space in the middle of the board. The game includes the board, category cards, dice, dice cup, brain, movers, folders (to hide your list as you write) and writing pads.

2 to 4 players, 6 and up Don't be put off by the age; this game is fun for all. Spelldown is in a 10" x 10" wooden box with a convenient slide off cover. The four sides of the box have identical wooden letters, not removable but flippable to an up/down position. The letters (B, C, D, F, G, H, L, N, W, Y) are down as the game begins. The dice contain vowels on one, consonants on the other and the object is to make a word using BOTH letters showing up on the dice combined with any letter or letters on your side. When you call out your word, you pull up the letters you've used. The object is to get all letters standing and the first player with all ten letters upright is the winner. But wait! If you can't make a word, you flip all letters down and if an opponent rolls two red letters, he or she chooses a player to do likewise. It's a fast moving game that is ever changing.

3 or more adult players The "Thingamajig" is a terrific electronic gadget that houses thousands of words to be defined. I just pressed the red button a few times and up came: copper, oboe, dustpan,
bundle, so you can see the range of words. The object, of course, is for the "Definer" to give an unrestricted definition that "can be as long or as short as the Definer wishes." When we played we changed the rules to limit the clue to no more than six words. Scoring is done with Thingamachips (included). All players coming up with the correct words receive one Thingamachip and the Definer gets one chip for each correct answer with an atypical exception. If all the players guess correctly the Definer gets nothing so it is wise to be slightly ambiguous in defining the word without going too far off.

For two teams, 8 and up The rules say: "For anyone old enough to remember the words to the songs they loved." And that's what this delightful game is all about. But knowing titles is not enough, you or a teammate must sing at least six words from any song containing one of the 5 words on the card; the Sing Off Word is determined by the roll of the die, taking you to a color space on the board. Example: I have a card in my hand with the word "Who", and I wish you could hear me singing: Who. . . stole my heart away. . . who makes me dream all day. A Category Space on the board will lead you to the category space on the card. Let's say it's TIMES OF DAY SONGS (It's 3 o'clock in the morning. . . ) Now it's your turn; gather some players and challenge them to a Sing-Off that includes a Grand Finale.

Word Rummy
2 to 4 players, 7 and up Here players are dealt seven cards and take turns laying down one word of 3 or more letters. During his or her turn, a player may steal an opponent's word by adding one or more letters to it, making a new word. The new letters must change its meaning so forget about adding an s and stealing the word. Play continues as each player discards cards and draws from the stack to build back to seven cards. You will need to refer to the rules for scoring as 3 letters score 1, 4 score 2 and so on, with words over 12 letters scoring a high 25. A few more scoring rules: Q, X, Y and Z bring 2 points, but also subtract the same number when left over in your hand (all other "leftovers" subtract one point). It's easy to learn and a good, fast-moving game.

8 to adult, 2-8 players If I have to explain Monopoly to you, I'd like to know what planet you're from and when you arrived. On the other hand, if you haven't played this classic board game since you were a kid, now is definitely the time to get back in the game. The 70th anniversary edition, billed as "the best Monopoly game money can buy," is all glitter and glow, with 1930s-inspired graphics, larger houses, more luxurious hotels, and chrome-plated tokens. Even the board is foil-wrapped, and the entire game is housed in a shiny tin box with a colorful sleeve that is the first sign this game is special. The rules booklet gives the history of Monopoly from its inception, 1935, and is fun to read. You won't Go To Jail if you don't listen to me, but you will be missing a chance to have a brand new time with a grand old classic.

Go Mental
12 years and over, 2-6 players We love games where nobody has to wait to take a turn. In Go Mental you can challenge an opponent to answer a difficult question or steal another's question when you know the answer. But beware&em;things are not always what they seem. Every card contains a list of four items, with one being the "odd one out." For example, given Shake, Stir, Twist, and Swim, Swim seems to be the odd one, but the answer is Stir, as the other three are dances (every card includes a brief explanation). Expect the unexpected as your "brain" (or token) moves around the board, where all players are striving to get to the MENTAL space. The game includes the colorful board, six brains, 1,000 intriguing questions, Challenge and Steal cards, a timer, and exceptionally clear rules, always a joy. There is nothing odd in this list: Play, Fun, Laugh, Learn. They all apply to Go Mental!

12 to adult, 2 or more players/teams Its billing as "The Game of Time, Intellect, and Rhyme" tells us up front that this game is for people who want to have fun with words (or what's a heaven for?). The challenge is to find rhymed answers to three clues on a card: e.g., 1. To slouch; 2. To pedal a bicycle; 3. To hit against. This is easy (I have the answers in front of me): slump, pump, bump. An innovative timing system consists of three separate timers, 15, 30 and 60 seconds, used at various times (rules are complex but very clear). Another timer is used during a Clue-For-All when all players compete simultaneously to complete the Trhyme. Correct answers will help you move your token around a cleverly constructed board, and that adds to the fun. But the real fun is coming up with those three rhymed words. Try this: 1. A burial chamber 2. A weak spot 3. A seasoning. Please do not call me at 3 in the morning for the answer!

Wordigo Board Game
8 to adult, 1 to 4 players This is "a completely new twist on crossword games" in which all players have their own artistically designed board and each board is a blank crossword grid. Players pick tiles from a sack (one sack per player) and race against a 7-minute timer and each other to complete the grid. But watch the placement of tiles! Vowels have no point value but can increase the value of adjoining consonants (indicated by arrows on the vowel tiles). There are four sets of four different playing boards and that, combined with the pick of the tiles, means every game is different. A game consists of three 7-minute rounds, and dictionaries are not only allowed during play but encouraged. And if I were not writing this article, I'd be playing the solitaire version right now, so I say, Way to go, Wordigo!

8 to adult, 1-4 players Have you ever played a game involving the luck of the draw when you wished you could buy a needed tile? Well, now you can; in fact, now you must. In Buy Word you buy letters (play money included) and then sell entire words back to the bank, at a profit. Some math is part of the game, but that is often the case in games, as in life, when money changes hands. For mathematically challenged people a price list is included, so you can see at a glance that a J with four dots is worth $16.00 while an E with one dot is worth a mere dollar. And here, when one player challenges another the loser doesn't lose a turn but loses money, in the form of a $20 penalty. If making words and making money is your idea of a fabulous combination, go out and make a really good buy&em;go out and buy Buy Word.

Such & Such
10 and up, 4 or more players in teams The outstanding packaging of Such & Such with its three-dimensional logo is what you will notice first, and it takes a great game to live up to this first impression. Such & Such does just that. Every answer comes in pairs, and questions involve all areas of life. For example: readers of Verbatim would probably know that smog is a combination of . . . what? Smoke and fog. But how about a famous root beer brand that includes an ampersand&em;quick! did you say A&W? This is a fast-paced game, and the challenge is to get the answers to five clues on one card before the timer runs out. We loved the ease of scoring with pawns and the wipe-off scoreboard and marker. With 2,500 clues you can play this many times over without running out. They say a score of 30 wins the game, but we said "Let's keep playing," and you will, too.

Last Word
8 and up, 2 to 8 players If you always want to have the "last word" in any discussion, here is your chance. It's a new spin on the old categories game where players have to name as many items indicated by a card (e.g. "Things bigger than a house") starting with an initial letter, also indicated by a drawn card. The highly innovative, random timer is the key to the last word, for the last player who has correctly given an instance of, let's say, "Things that are fried" when the timer goes off advances one space on the game board (think wordy Musical Chairs). There is no strategy involved, but there are Jump Starts, Trade-Ins, and Challenges, all explained with exceptional clarity. The playing board, too, is exceptional in design, with a stacking board for the subject and letter cards. The box and all the components are graphically attractive. I just set the timer and must finish this sentence before it goes off. Buzzzzz!

12 and up, 3 or more players Another anniversary edition (20th year) of another classic game, and I'm thinking there must be a whole new generation ready to play "The Game of Quick Draw." Pictionary is definitely a word game, as players must guess words from pictures; the categories are: All Play (any type of word), Difficult (challenging words), Person/Place/Animal, Object (things that can be touched or seen), and Action (things that can be performed). A toss of the "Challenge Die" has players drawing with their off hand, eyes closed, and other variations. And once again I feel compelled to mention the graphically pleasing board and boxes that are snazzier than ever, as is this foil-wrapped Pictionary box. It's a smaller box than previous sets, but it holds everything needed to play, including pads, pencils, and cute pawns that look like pencils. I hope I've drawn your attention to a sure way to have a lot of fun on game night at home.

You've Been Sentenced!
10 and up, 3-10 players How ingenious to take the word sentence, as in a court proceeding, and turn it into a game of creating sentences (as I have just done). A true word game, it has cards that contain various forms of a word: nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, etc. For example, softer, softest, soft, soften, softly appear on one card. Each player starts with ten cards and tries to form a sentence using one word from each of two to ten cards, using the actual cards, no pen and paper needed. Sentences, which will be judged, must be sensible and grammatically correct (wild cards help). The court analogy follows through with "Civil Court" and "Criminal Court" rules (with a timer). Words with greater value are so marked on the card, and the first player to form a sentence gets bonus points, as does a player who uses all ten cards. There will be no objections when you bring on this game.

Mental Floss
2 to 6 adult players When I find a trivia game that promises to be "funny" and "quirky" and claims "you'll walk away a genius," I look for reasons to include it in an article on word games. Mental Floss granted my wish with posers such as: The letter "O" when used as a prefix in surnames like O'Grady originally meant A. house; B. grandson; C. citizen. The answer, "grandson," surprised me. The amusing board is made up of Right Brain, Left Brain, and Spot the Big Fat Lie, another innovation in which you are read two truthful-sounding statements but one is a big fat lie. The questions are tough, but as soon as you read the rules and gather the Mental Block cards, Piece of Mind tokens, Floss Facts cards, Enlightening Round cards, and more, you will be smiling before you start frowning because you can't think of what the "ZIP" in ZIP Code stands for, and I'm not telling. Go play the game!

ages not specified Thinklers consists of pages and pages of a dozen squares on a page, each cryptically representing a word or phrase (you may know them as "Wacky Wordies"). Example: BLOCK (with the top part of the K missing) is "a chip off the old block." Other puzzle pages in the book have you coming up with rhymed answers, and still others with three items having something in common (window panes, birthday cakes, and corn flakes&em;they can be frosted). And there's so much more. A good book to take along on long trips, alone or especially with children. Ways To Play With Words consists of about a dozen different types of "write-in" puzzles, designed for Emergent Readers/Writers, Experienced Readers/Writers, and Fluent Readers/Writers. The author says the book is designed for the classroom. I say it is perfect for any small group of family or friends who want to have fun on a winter night (or around a picnic table in the summer). Beware: both of these books become addictive.

8 and up, 2 or more players Snatch comes in a 12-inch tube, and your game board is any table, floor, lap desk, or airplane tray table (the game is easily packed to take along). The rules are printed on the outside of the cylindrical container; it takes 30 seconds to learn the game and another few seconds to pour the shiny letter tiles onto any surface, face down. By the 35th second you will be playing a fast-paced, brain-perking word game. Players take turns flipping over the tiles one at a time, and any player who spots enough exposed letters to make a word calls out the word and grabs the tiles. In short, the player owns that word&em;but not for long, because this is where Snatch comes in. Players steal words from one another by adding one or more letters to change the word, and letters may be rearranged in the process. Test this game and you will attest to all I've said here.

10 and up, 3 or more players The question cards in Etc. have one very visible difference from cards in most games. Each card contains two letters, and all answers must be two words or a compound word. Take JT, for example: 1. He used to be in sync with SYNC (Justin Timberlake), 2. Saturday Night Fever star (John Travolta). The wide variety of questions is enticing. A PM card has Pac-Man, an ED card answer is eavesdrop. When a question is read by the reader in that round, the other players all try to be the first to shout out the answer, and the first to do so takes a scoring point from the center of the table. Scoring is easy, and the first player with 50 points is the winner. In truth, everyone wins in this fast-paced game where facts buried somewhere in your brain jump out at the right time.

10 to adult, 3 or more players This is the fourth edition of the classic word-association game, one that has been long remembered as one of TV's favorite celebrity-hot game shows—played here without an MC, of course. It now continues in living rooms, at parties, wherever players can strive to get a partner to say a word based on one-word hints. The game is cleverly engineered, with words hidden in leatherette card holders and a red window obscuring the card to be inserted so that only one hidden word shows up at a time. If I say "hair, curly, marker, unremovable," will you eventually come up with permanent? No matter, I have five chances to get you to say the word while the other team is using their five chances to guess their word. The number of guesses is tracked on a built-in dial with pointer, and rules for 3 players are included. If I say enjoyable, you will surely say Password.

WordSpot Game - Bookshelf Edition
8 and up 2 players This is an exquisite game in a beautifully designed wooden box that looks like a magnificent book when placed on a bookshelf. The game was inspired by a centuries-old tradition of letterpress craftsmen who had to arrange thousands of separate tiles on a single tray to create printed matter. Masters of the craft hid words within a block of text, challenging each other to find those special words. You and your opponent now vie to become masters at finding words hidden in blocks of letters. All the components, from the richly hued letter tiles to the special tokens in a velour bag, make this game almost as much fun to look at as to play. Scoring is as simple as winning is rewarding. Another version of the game, Wordspot Discovery Edition, is the same game in less costly packaging, but no less extravagant in quality of play. You pays your money and takes your choice!

Across Words
Teen to adult 2 players or teams They call this The Electronic Talking Word Race Game, and is it ever! That devilish character (surely there is a man hidden inside) calls out clues and letters, and will even cheer for the winning team. Each card is two-sided so that opposing players are looking at the same clue at the same time. When the electronic host calls out letters in the answer, in random order, players take lettered tiles and place them in a console. As soon as one side has the answer (or thinks they have) they press a colored lid over their tiles and that stops the action and the mysterious man gives the right answer. "Yes" or "No" buttons indicate you had the correct (or, sorry to say, incorrect) answer. If yes, the voice cheers for you and states your score; it keeps score throughout. As an aside: I wish I had my Electronic Scorekeeper to keep score when I'm playing other games that call for adding up numbers. Note: you need a Phillips screwdriver to insert four AA batteries, and I appreciated that this information was provided on the outside of the box.

Trivial Pursuit: Totally 80s
Adults 2-4 players All right, I did say that some games were not word games in the purest form: how can I ignore a new, terrific version of Trivial Pursuit? I can't. This version, with a stunning new board and jazzy tokens to make you smile (two computers, a cd, and a teddy bear with a big heart). cries out for attention. The categories are Headlines, Television, Movies, Music, Sports & Leisure, and Wild Card, with all questions involving a decade of big events. For example, if you are totally stumped by What style of dancing featured moves called the windmill, the turtle and the handglide" you may not move around the board too quickly. But wait! If you said breakdancing you're on your way.
The 2,400 new questions will keep all players searching their memory for answers to some long-forgotten event, but don't let that scare you. Your opponents will have an equally difficult time, and it all leads to a great deal of good-time reminiscing.

8 to adult 2 to 4 players One of the newest, purest word games is an original, amazing challenge where players, either one on one or in teams, face a standing, clear plastic vertical grid in which letters are dropped into channels. Both sides see the letters in exactly the same position and both sides try to create words up, down, backwards, forwards, or diagonally. Opponents will always be ready to steal your points by blocking you from making your intended word. As an example, I was making nominate backwards, and had gotten as far as nimon when my wise opponent blocked me by starting his word with a b, stopping my progress. The game is nicely packaged, and the grid and tiles are of the highest quality. Scoring is a little tricky in that an addition of one letter alone can add up to any number of words. But stay with it, as conquering the scoring will bring you hours of brain-tickling play.

Word Sweep
10 and up 2 to 4 players I don't know about you, but when I see the Merriam-Webster name attached to anything about words, I immediately think of course, why not! And so it is with WORDSWEEP. When you find that each card in this game, whether in the category of Everyday words, Intermediate words, or Challenging words, is made up of three words that appear consecutively in a Merriam-Webster dictionary and the object is to name that trio of words from the definitions read by another player, you will revel in this dictionary-driven game. Answering all three correctly is a "Word Sweep," but beware&em;another player can steal your missed words, and all players are vying to get around the colorful board. The tokens are books, and the finish line is, appropriately enough, an open Merriam-Webster dictionary. Rules are very clear, covering getting stumped and stealing, and include junior rules for the 10-14 set. This game will make you hover in the air, won't make you weep with short gasping sounds, and will keep you well-reasoned and balanced. SOAR, SOB, SOBER! Get it?

Jot! Game
8 to adult 2 to 4 players I don't often find a timer that I want to talk about before I talk about the game, but the Jot Roller-timer is fascinating. It is an oversized die that, when rolled, activates the timer and with beeps and flashes counts down 60 seconds. Numbers and symbols on all six surfaces indicate what action players must take: add two letters, pick a card, add six letters, replace a word. Players write words with an erasable marker on a most unusual game board that is a cleverly designed crossword-type grid with colored squares. The first player writes any word containing six letters. Play continues from there, and cards tell players they must Add a movie, Add a holiday, Add something to do with music, etc. The various instructions can be hilarious when Add something to wear is followed by disputes ("I can wear an egg if I want to"). Scoring is simple, with nice touches: purple spaces count as two points, yellow as three, and more. Jot this game on your holiday wish list wish!

Take Your Best Shot
8 and up 3-5 players
How do you describe a new, innovative, enjoyable, challenging word game without using any of those words? You don't. You tell the person reading this review to simply apply all those words to TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT. This cleverly packaged game includes a "funnel" (now, that's innovative!) into which players will toss one of the Guessing Balls (color-keyed to identify each player) as soon as they guess the answer to one of the 440 Clue cards. My first card had the words BUS DIVER TRUCK on one side, and the reader (players take turns reading) read the clue on the other side of the card: It goes forward, down the road & backwards under the sea. I'll pause here while you try to answer that one, which I missed (don't let that get around). All right, the answer is BUS because spelled backward it is SUB. This clever game is all about playing with words. A scoring track and score markers simplify scoring. You have to be quick and quick-witted to play TYBS, but remember, it really is all of those things I said in the first sentence.

Don't Quote Me: TV Edition
14 to adult 2-5 players or teams
This TV version is often a blast from the past, featuring 50 years of TV on 100 cards. Another 300 cards, with categories such as comedy, drama, and movies, include biographies and details about each quote. Five quotes on each card will have you playing happily many times over. The tokens in this game are large, plastic quotation marks. Nice touch! When I wondered if this game fits our word game category I decided that any game where quotes are paramount is certainly about words. You can take my word for it.

Paired Up
12 and up 3-6 players or teams If I were to ask you to give me a pair of relatives and you jumped in with aunt and uncle, you're on your way to winning a Paired Up game. All answers come in pairs, but it's not as easy as it seems. Sure you'll know faucets are hot and cold, but can you name the famous pair of pandas at the National Zoo? Ling-Ling and Hsing Hsing. It's as challenging to be the giver of clues as the guesser, so clue giver earns points, too. Rules are very clear, and the game is equipped with scoring sheets, erase marker, timer, die, pencils, and 800 pairs on 200 cards. Speaking of scoring, I get a kick out of this game's innovative way of assigning number of points in a round: a roll of the die determines it. Roll a 3 and the clue giver and the player each get three points. Neat! Yet another example: if my clue is "long ago TV funny detective and his sidekick," you would have to know Agent 86 and Agent 89 to get two extra points. Famous pairs are highlighted in red on each card. I like the company's statement: The couples in Fame & Fortune are just for "fun and games." None of them endorse our game or have any connection with it, aside from being "rich and famous" enough to be included!

12 and up 2 or more players
If you love crossword puzzles but could never visualize the solving of same as a party game, you are about to find that answering 2 down or 23 across does not have to be a solitary activity. In this very clever version, Team A has a crossword puzzle to complete while Team B reads the clues to that puzzle. B also has a puzzle with clues coming from A. It's a fast-paced game, as players have only 30 seconds to come up with an answer. Just like solving alone, where you skip around to clues you know, you may ask for a clue to a specified number. Pencils, timer, and Stump Chips (which may be exchanged for an answer when you are&em;what else?&em;stumped) are included. The game contains 20 cards, and the company is planning to produce new sets of cards. But in the meantime, I figure that even at a cost of $20 for the current cards, you are paying $20 for many hours of entertainment, and it's more fun than going to a movie and having a slice of pizza!

Boggle: Folio Edition
8 to adult
Boggle is as much a part of the word game scene as Scrabble, and this version is the Hope Diamond of Boggle sets. It's all there, the grid and dome, 16 letter cubes, pencils, pads, and a built-in Electronic Timer with 2 AAA batteries included (but you need a tiny Phillips screwdriver to install them). The timer is terrific, flashing green, amber, and finally red when it's about to beep. Everything is stowed neatly and compactly in a soft-sided zippered case. The instruction sheet is concise and clear (but you already know how to make three-letter words and up, don't you?). Take this game anywhere, play it everywhere, enjoy it always. I just flipped the grid and dome and was able to pick out GREAT.

Attache Suduko
8 to adult 1 to 4 players
SURPRISE! What is a numbers puzzle doing in a word game article? It's here because everybody seems to be going Sudoku-wild, so I thought I'd tell you about the latest version. It has a game board, number tiles, a cloth storage pouch, and 100 puzzles and comes in a handsome zippered case. So there you are, and here I am, not using a lot of words to tell you about something to do with numbers just because you might enjoy it and you can take it from here. I don't do Sudoku!

10 and up 2 or more players
Ah! I love a game where the player with the fewest points wins, a nice change from striving to score higher than anyone else. The object of this game is to get rid of beautiful, slick letter-cards by placing them, one at a time, on a long, narrow board that folds up nicely to fit in the box. All players add one letter as play progresses around the table, with everyone determined to place a letter while not completing a word. This is not as easy as it seems. Let us say COUN is on the board and you plan to make COUNTRY so you snap down a T. Aha! calls out an opponent, that word is COUNT and so it is, and so are you the loser in that round. There are interesting rules covering chips and challenges and switch, squeeze, exchange, and pass, so even though DISORDER may remind you of an old-time oral game, GHOST, DISORDER is much snappier, jazzier, and more challenging, and with a foolproof method of keeping score (rather than: "I DID NOT HAVE THREE POINTS!").

Smart Mouth
8 TO ADULT 2 or more players
I applaud the array of new word games that come out every year and the new ways conceived for the getting, playing, and counting up of words. SMART MOUTH has a Letter Getter. With a little tap on the top, the Letter Getter pushes out two letters at a time, one green on the left side, one orange on the right. These letters are now the first and last letters of any word of at least five letters in length. All players try to make a word using these designated letters, and the first player to call out an acceptable word wins those tiles. The Letter Getter pushes out two more and the game continues. The Letter Getter on my desk just popped out F and C and I immediately thought FANTASTIC (but that's because I'm writing about this game). The winner is the player with most tiles when all 36 pairs have been used. There are wonderful variations: the Name Game, with tiles representing initials of noted people, geographical locations, and much more, or any variations you can think of yourself.

13 and over 2 or more players A CONTRARIO is a new way of looking at an old (or not so old) phrase using synonyms, antonyms, or phonetically altered or related words to create a new phrase. There are 1,320 CONTRARIOS on two-sided cards, and each card lists four Contrarios containing a convoluted phrase along with two hints and the original phrase. The Contrario on a card in front of me is Twice in a yellow moon, and the two hints are Idiom/Not often, and I will pause while you ponder. Each time a player digs out the original phrase he or she scores points, all clearly spelled out in the rules. Length of the game is in your hands, and I like the way they put it: play a predetermined time; a predetermined number of cards; reach a targeted score. All right now, Twice in a yellow moon translates into Once in a blue moon. Yes, they may be convoluted or even, sometimes, a little forced, but they are fun and, trust me, there is nothing hidden in the words I've written here.

What's Yours Like?
10 to Adult 4 or more players
The rules are easy to follow, the game that follows is fun to play. It consists of 376 guess words or phrases that a player in the "hot seat" has to guess from answers the other players give. The responses to "What's yours like?" must always be truthful, but also witty, clever and even outrageous enough to be slightly misleading (but again, always honest). This is where the fun part comes in as players talk about something they have or wish they had, giving these answers one at a time. If the word is microwave, for example, and you don't have one, you might say "Mine is non-existent", or "I wish I had one", while another player says "I use mine three times a day." A third might add yet another mystifying but truthful answer: "Mine has a turntable." Almost everything you need to play is packed inside the box, including challenge cards, blank cards, clue boards and markers. All you need add is damp tissue to wipe off the clue board, and pencil and paper to keep score. All right, let's play. Guess my word: Mine is a playful job; mine takes a lot of time; it involves other people; I share it with even more people. If you guessed "game reviewer" you just scored a hit. Score a bigger one by getting this game. Your players will love you for it.

Lexogon: The Great Game of Words Board Game
Teen to Adult 2-6 players
Read some Category Rules along with me about clue letters that must be used to make words:

The last clue letter must be the last letter of the word.

The first clue letter must be first and the last clue letter must be
last. Clue BGS—example BOGUS, BAGS

And the Granddaddy of all the Category Rules:

The first clue letter may not be the first letter of the word, the last letter may not be last, and all letters must be next to each other Clue UGH—xamples: LAUGHS; DAUGHTER

If this sampling of the Category Rules in LEXOGON have you panting for more, you are definitely ready to play The Great Game of Words! In addition to the Category Rule cards (each with 7 word-finding categories), you will find a colorful, unique game board, tokens (also unique), 1 die (to get players around the board), score pads and 2 90-second timers to keep the game moving along. Two Clue Card decks provide levels for high school and college vocabularies, a nice feature but we liked mixing the cards, as allowed in the rules. This game requires that you BYOP&SP (bring your own pencil and scrap paper), little enough to ask in a game that is complete right down to "A Dictionary of Examples of Qualifying Words." The game also includes Condition Spaces, Challenges, Spoke Privilege (don't ask, you'll have to play) and variations. We found the entire game so captivating during several play-dates we had absolutely no need or wish to vary it. But next time (and we guarantee, there will be a next and a next and a next) maybe we will.

8 to Adult 2-6 players Let us start with the game board because you won't see one when you open the box. You will see 15-18 6x6 inch flat pieces that you assemble into a fairly large board. Caveat: you need a large table, or even the floor, to accommodate the board, which you assemble according to number of players. Play consists of forming words from adjacent letters in this Garden of Letters, a new, challenging, totally different type of word search. There are hedges that must be jumped over to use letters on the other side, but you can only scale them if you have a "Gardener Card". Picking up letter tiles and target cards, while blocking opponents, is at the heart of this innovative word game. All players plan moves and strategy during every opponent's turn, a feature we appreciate in every game. An important part of strategy is the unusual feature here; short, simple words may be better than long ones, nice when playing with younger players (additional challenge for those of us who try to make long words in every other game). They say this unique 18-part game board gives more than 6 billion possible set-up combinations but we haven't counted them! We do know that the many times we played AmuseAmaze, we found each to be a vastly different game so you won't tire of playing it. The copy on the box declares that AmuseAmaze is The Spellbinding Word Race Game! and we can vouch for that. Take our word for it.

8 to Adult 2-8 players
Here is a very word-oriented board game filled with ex-cep-tion-al-i-ty. That is not a word that rolls trippingly off the tongue but it accurately describes SYL-LA-BLES. If a roll of the dice put me on an E on the board, I would need to write down any word of my choice beginning with that letter. And I would choose exceptionality (if I could think that fast during play) because I'd earn an extra 50 points for each syllable in my word and that gives me 300 extra points (above the value of the letters themselves). Yes, there is a great deal of counting and scoring in this game but the more you play, the more you become accustomed to the value of the letters (who doesn't know the value of a Q or a Z in Scrabble!). Extra stops along the board may put you in a Spelling Bee when another player picks up a card and asks you to spell, let's say, connoisseur (all right, I did look at the card to spell that correctly!). Another, most intriguing space is Thesaurus because we words people are sure we know the meaning of most words. But how about diagonal? You know what it means and can describe it using your hands (won't help in this game). Here you must come up with the exact words that appear on the card. In this case, diagonal means beveled, bias, biased, oblique, slanted, slanting. Spelling Bee and Thesaurus cards have two words on each card, green for beginners and black for advanced players. Rules suggest that before the game begins, players choose the color they want to play. But we say Hey! no fair picking beginner words, you wordsmith, you!

Teens to Adults 4-10 players
Aha! Here it is, one of the non-word games I promised, and I promised it because it is so much fun and by stretching a point or two, I deemed it worthy for words people. After all, if you have to come up with a movie title that incorporates elements from two different cards, your mind will perhaps be replaying scenes and dialogue. The cards are titled THEME, ACTORS, PROPS, SCENES, CHARACTERS, and more, and are selected from a pile of 504 cards. For example, an ACTORS card I have before me lists Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Olivia de Havilland for players to choose one actor. Next to it is a THEME card that states Lovers from Different Sides of the Tracks. Anything pop into your head? Well, if you remember that in a certain major motion picture a first class passenger, engaged to a wealthy man, fell in love with the lad in steerage (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), you probably shouted out TITANIC. You win the card and cards are points, making scoring so easy. There is no list of answers as that would be impossible for all the variations. If there is a doubt as to the actual title (real or made up on the spot?), the player will have to convince opponents that the movie is a legitimate one and not a television show or, good grief, a home movie. This is part of the good fun in this game. It's a light-hearted look at cinema and as players talk up their answer to prove the connection, they really are indulging in a game of words!

In Other Words
teen to adult 4 or more players Way up there in the introduction I said "Play nice, don't fight."
Well, I take that back, for here you can, and probably will, fight over some answers when a player offers a wrong answer and then tries to justify it. But trust me, this only adds to the fun and hilarity of IN OTHER WORDS, and proves there is a reason this game is called The Wickedly Twisted Games of Wordplay. Clues are a combination of two or more words that add up to Movies, Books, Songs or Sayings. An easy example is Converse with child's crackers; easy because the answer is Talk to the Animals. Get it? Trickier and more devious is: Where comedian Rich lives in the Grassland as a clue to the book Little House on the Prairie. And you must solve while the 2-minute timer is taunting you. Rules are listed for two teams (of two players) and additional rules for teams of three or more, and in that case, Stealing is allowed. The roll of a die specifies a category and if a "Difficult" card is picked the player not only must solve the clue but also answer a trivia question. Teams strive to be the first to win all categories, easy to keep track of on the included score sheet. We just came up with our own clue (not in the game): Word for word, Idiom, Published four times a year. If you did not say VERBATIM: THE LANGUAGE QUARTERLY, you get a demerit!

Getta Letter
10 plus 2 or more players
If you don't smile when you see the Getta Letter gadget then you are not the happy-go-lucky games player we think you are. It's the cutest little device whose arms spread out so players on opposite sides of the table have the exact same playing field that consists of individual letter tiles standing up in a channel. The letters are to be flipped down as players call out items in a designated category, one initial letter at a time. There are 300 categories ranging from very general (types of nuts), to very personal (things in your pocket). Players do not take turns, but all play at once. Let's say the drawn category card reads: things in an airport. Players start calling out items and flipping down letters as they go (letters flip easily to one side of the other) but can only use letters that have not been called already. Airport things: baggage, security, airplanes, rest rooms, pilots, restaurants (oops! no good! the letter R has already been flipped for rest rooms). When the timer stops, so does play and you add up the flipped letters on each side of the game gadget. A nice feature of the mechanical timer is a button to stop it during discussions such as "I never saw an elephant in an airport!" "Oh, yeah, it was a poster about the circus coming to town." The timer starts up again with a mere click. This is an easy game to play, to score, to play again. And again. Quick, think of some words that fit the category Board Games. Go on, have fun. We're not checking for duplication.

Hit or Miss
10 to adult 3-8 players
Here we have another category game with a twist and we applaud game inventors for the variations they produce on an always enjoyable premise. Hit or Miss, which begins like many other category games adds another dimension that makes it unique. First, a category card is drawn, read aloud and all players make a list as fast as they can until the timer runs out. Cards call for, e.g, Breakfast Foods or Things you inflate and others want you to complete a phrase: Mother________ or Apple_______. Mother Nature and Apple Pie came to me at once me but there are many more phrases for those words. Not so unusual up to now but wait! The additional challenge comes into play when time for writing is up and the player then rolls the die, which has words HIT, MISS or a picture of a JESTER. At that point, the player will circle a word on his or her card, and according to the roll of the die, that either matches other players' words, doesn't match anyone else's word, or if a Jester comes up, allows the player to choose whether it's a Hit or a Miss. The other players have Hit or Miss cards in front of them and these cards are used in the uncomplicated scoring part of the game. Hit or Miss is beautifully packaged with 252 category cards, timer, Hit or Miss cards, pads of paper, pencils, score pad and that wonderful die that's rules this game. Get this game and you can't MISS scoring a HIT with the players you gather around for an evening of fun.

Scrabble Express
8 and up 2-4 players
When first you see the 6-inch round Scrabble Game Pod, as Hasbro calls its Scrabble Express container, you will say, "A game of Scrabble can't be in there." But you would be wrong. The pod holds a Scrabble Gameboard that, when unfolded, is a 7-inch square colorful rendition of a regular Scrabble board with double letters, double words, triple letters and triple words. The pod also holds 12 Letter Dice in a plush pouch, a one-minute timer (to use or not), score pad and pencil. Just as in a traditional Scrabble game, the first player (determined by the roll of the die) selects seven letters from the pouch, rolls the dice and makes a word using as many letters as possible to form a word starting in the "double letter" square in the center of the board. Now for the big difference; any leftover letters from that move (letters not on the board) go back into the pouch. The next player draws seven, rolls the dice, and adds one or more letters to the word on the board. After that turn, all the dice on the board, with the exception of the newly added word, are removed and put back into the pouch. In short, there is only one word on the board after every move. The game is complete with Challenges, Advanced Play and a website to go to for tips. Nothing is missing here and although we don't wish you any long waits in a plane on a tarmac, just think how much happier you would be playing Scrabble Express with your seat mate.

Hangman Electronic Hand-Held Game
8 and up solo play Have I got an idea for you! This is something for stocking stuffers, to have in house when youngsters are coming to visit, for yourself on a commuter train or in a plane (see above for talk about a tarmac), in a doctor's waiting room when every minute seems like an hour, even, dare I say it, while on a boring telephone conversation, at which time you should turn off the sound. I am talking about having Hangman handy and what better word than "handy" is there to describe a Hand-Held Electronic game. And Hangman is the gem of this notion. What? You're not into electronics (a Neanderthal, huh?). Doesn't matter. Hangman still calls for guessing a word as you add each letter and where every wrong letter brings you closer to a hanging. It is equipped with 2 games, 3 levels, 10 categories and an 8000 word dictionary. Scoring is automatic and high scores are saved so you can always try to do better (or be frustrated because you can't). I knew Hangman when it was a paper and pencil game in my youth, to a boxed game in recent years, and to a hand-held now.

Scrabble Diamond Anniversary Edition
8+ 2 to 4 players If you tell me you never heard of Scrabble, I will ask what planet you're from and when did you arrive on this land of ours. The rest of us know that Scrabble has been around forever (well, at least for 60 years, as of this year). To honor this high point they created a very special Diamond Anniversary edition that is completely contained in a small suitcase-like carrier. When opened the entire piece becomes a full-sized, revolving Scrabble board with a raised grid to secure the letters placed therein, a nice touch when the board is spun around to the next player. A little drawer slips out at the side from under the board containing the newest look in Scrabble racks, deep red and curved for better viewing of your letters. A drawer on the other side holds a velvet-like pouch with black and silver tiles. These lovely, innovative touches won't help you make high-scoring words but it sure adds to the fun of playing. The new rule book also fits into one of the drawers and includes, for your reading pleasure, the History of the Scrabble Game and for your playing pleasure, variations and rules for shorter game play, if desired. For those of you who like to tote your Scrabble game around, you can now do it without using a shopping bag. You can carry this one as is and startle your other players by opening it up on the table and feel very superior as you pull open the drawers and set it up. We like being the first one with latest look in a game board. How about you?

Perfect Sense
12 to adult 3 to 6 players The copy on the box declares that this game contains RIDDLES THAT MAKE SENSE, and do they ever, in the literal "sense" of the word. The game consists of a game board, 1800 riddles on 180 cards, 6 pawns and one colored die. Every single one of the five clues on each card relates to all five senses--sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing--to define one single word, listed at the bottom of the card, for the reader's eyes only. The five colors of the die represent the five senses and the color that comes up with the toss designates which clue will be read first. The sixth side is black and with that color, the guesser chooses which sense riddle will be read first. In some cases the sight clue might give an easier prompt than touch, so having a choice is a plus. When you've seen your very first clue card you will marvel at the brilliance of the clues even before you start to play in earnest. How could the creators take, for example, the word rattlesnake and define it in clues covering all of the five senses? Here's how, for example: You'll see that arms and legs I lack. A diamond pattern runs down my back. And My sound is like a baby's toy, but doesn't give you any joy. And yes, a rattlesnake can be defined by those sight and hearing clues along with taste, touch and smell all on the same card. We were so impressed by the clues that we actually stopped playing on the board so we could read card after card of clues. But don't do that! Play it out because the number of moves on the board is determined by how many clues it takes the guesser to come up with the answer and, trust me, reaching FINISH before your opponents will give you a perfect sense of accomplishment.

A To Z Electronic
8+ 2 to 6 Players or teams Quick! Get a Phillips-head screwdriver and 3 AA batteries and you and your opponents will be ready for a speedy, light-blinking, fast-thinking, zany-making time. I say zany because I am smart and if I have to name, let's say, places to go on vacation using the initial letter for each location, I can rattle off Las Vegas and Florida and Hollywood and oh, oh, oh Wait! You have to remember that all the answers have to cover a different letter of the alphabet so when I screeched out Las Vegas and London (they both start with L), I wasted five seconds on nothing! That's why it's zany but that's also why it is challenging and challenging in the realm of word games means more fun! You know how they talk of Artificial Intelligence? Here it is; the Electronic A to Z is more intelligent than the person writing this sentence for it knows how to keep time, to remember what each player has scored and even to cheer a little when a round is over. It also lets you "steal" from an opponent and sometimes earn a "free" letter. Ah! I grew smart. I had a free letter and chose Z, for how many words begin with that letter? Next time I'll take the X/Y light as my free choice. I suggest you copy my strategy when playing. And you will be playing this game, a lot. All right! How many letters of the alphabet can you use when describing a good, new game from A to Z. I say Amazing, Brilliant, Clever, Diabolical, Exceptional, Fun ... and you may take it from there.

10 and up Two teams of two players Ah! A real word game, even if the words are single non-hyphenated words to be guessed through single non-hyphenated clues. This cleverly constructed game consists of six different groups of money cards from $10,000 to $1,000,000 (of course, one million; this is Million Dollar Password) that fit into a console. The same console houses a 30-second and 90-second timer which offer musical interludes, a la TV! The game is best played with four people in two teams as each team has a clue-giver and a clue-receiver. The words to be guessed are concealed on cards but revealed to the clue-giver through a Card Reveal sleeve (each team has its own). There are four Password rounds and a Bonus round with different rules involving a decreasing number of guesses. Rules also give a 3-player version and all the rules are clearly written. Scorekeeping involves little pegs that go into holes in the console and 3 AA batteries, required but not included, are easy to install and have an on-off switch. When stowing the game, leave all the money in proper places in the console, put a rubber band around all the cards and components and place them on the console and slide the console right into the box. I did it three times to make sure that everything would be intact and the game was instantly and perfectly set up, ready for another enticing game of Password.

Chain Game
12 to Adult 2-8 players Good fun, good and plenty, plenty of action, action figure, figure it out ...
If you have figured out that each subsequent combination of words contained one word from the previous combination, you are a Chain Game player in the making. There are 216 cards containing combinations to work from such as Puppet Show, Handbag, Armchair (go ahead, link those words to others just for the fun of it and I'll wait while you do so). If you said Puppet Show/Show Dog, Handbag/Bag Lady, Armchair/Chairperson you have already become an expert. But wait! You have just five seconds to compose your combination and this is where the old One Mississippi, Two Mississippi method of ticking off seconds will come in handy, as the game does not include a timer (but the time limit is essential to the speed and fun). All single-word answers must be made up of a word that can be broken into two words. For example, working from steam engine you can say steamboat but not steamers (as in clams) because ers is not a word. The rules are very clear about acceptable combinations. The game also includes 36 chain links and each player is given a supply of links. If a player calls off a wrong combination, or cannot think of a correct reply in five seconds, the time-keeper honks a horn (included) and that person loses a link, a nice feature as this is the kind of scoring I love; no pad and pencil needed. When one player loses all of his or her links, the game is over and the player with most links left is the winner. And it's time to play again, as you surely will.

12+ 3 to 6 players What we have here is a family game, a party game and a word game! Players try to think alike and they do that by looking at cards picked from the pack: a Description Card (I'm looking at one card that says Silly) and a subject card (this one says Thing in a closet) and then thinking of an answer that fits that topic. To me a silly thing in a closet is a skeleton. And if you think so, too, we matched and that is the object of this game. Each player has a very cute, amusing paddle to write or draw on with a dry-erase marker. When a roll of the die calls for LIKEWISE, you use words, if the die says DOODLE! you draw an answer that you hope will match other doodles. No drawing skill is required and the playful rules even say "we're not talking Picasso here." A different roll of the die might indicate WISEGUYS and that permits you to pick another player to work with you. Every player also has his or her own eraser so paddle-cleaning is accomplished with ease and you are quickly ready for the next round. The winner is the player who reaches the Winner's Circle first and is thereby declared the be-all and end-all telepathic superstar! I told you the rules are playful.

Dont Forget The Lyrics!
12+ 2 teams

How can any list of word games ignore a game that includes the word Lyrics? It can't, not if I'm writing it because I believe lyrics are literature. Next time you hear a song, listen, really listen, to the words, but for now you can play with lyrics in a most engaging game. Engaging, that is, if you are familiar with music from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, Rhythm & Blues, Pop, Rock, Country and more, 10 categories in all. (My favorite card in the whole pack is a Country title: "Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song"). The beautifully packaged game includes 400 Lyric Cards and all the components needed to emulate the TV show of same name. The object is to name, and lock in, the missing lyrics. Lyric cards lead up to that missing line, 3 to 7 words, in a song that players must talk or belt out, as the rules say. And the rules say everything that you need to know to call on Helpers, Back up Singers, and even, if you're interested, pages of copyright information. Teams win money and the first team that identifies the missing lyrics in the million dollar question is the team I'd most admire. As a former player of this game (confession, I knew nothing) I suggest you put rubber bands around each group of cards when stowing the game to make your next play-around good to go!

Scrabble Me
8 to adult 2-4 players Me! Me! Me! That's what I call out when I hear the words, "Who wants to play Scrabble Me?" In this Scrabble version, each player has his or her own individual 7-inch Scrabble board, with all the bonus point squares found on a regular board. If you've never played Scrabble before this is the time to get started. The rules are very clear for the beginning player. But if you have been playing and have sometimes wished, as who has not, that you could set up a brilliant and fool-proof move for your next turn, this is it. All players are playing on their own boards at the same time, and each round ends when everyone is finished with that round. This time you have a chance to pick exposed tiles from a center podium (with 6 to 12 letter-side-up tiles depending on number of players) or take your chances and pick from a bag, as usual. But wait! Back track a minute. Yes, you can be setting up your own playing field but there is a catch! Blanks are not only used for any letter, they also are used to swap boards. So your fine board may now go to your opponent. Or you may be eyeing your opponent's board and use a blank to steal it. The rules also include some helpful hints specifically for Scrabble Me players, of which you will regularly be one as soon as you get the "my own board" bug.

Deft-initions Word Guessing Game
12 to adult 2 or more players A confession: sometimes when I'm playing a new word game I wish, wish, wish that I had been in on the development of the game -- and this is one of those times. Can you imagine writing eight totally different definitions to refer to a single word that would fit all eight definitions, er, I mean DEFT-INITIONS. Take these clues, for example: Spool, To stagger, To whirl around, A lively folk dance (to cite a few). Wouldn't I love to be the person creating those clues for (guess the word!) reel and wouldn't you be pleased with yourself for having come up with the answer before I spilled it? Sometimes a clue is a series of three words or phrases separated by dots and this type of clue indicates that the word on the card will fit all three clues. Take this test: ~ of fate ~ one's arm ~ -off cap ... did you guess that the answer is twist as in twist of fate, twist one's arm and twist-off cap? Points are awarded for correct answers and the rules are written as clearly and concisely as the DEFT-INITIONS cards and include some variations. If you guessed any of the teasers in this write-up you are already playing "The great new word recognition game", as is declared on the easy-to-take-along tin box. Said box compactly houses 300 cards, 20-second timer, a die offering an element of risk, score pad and pencil. All it needs is word-loving players who can play anytime, anywhere!

6 to adult 2 or more players What more can I add to the words on the first page of the rules: "It's Easy, It's Fast, and It's Fun to Play! Well, after playing SAYGO, I can add YES to all of the above. This is a fast moving, brain teasing, people pleasing game. Letter tiles are placed face down on the table and all players pick eight tiles, keeping them face down for the moment. When all tiles have been picked, the word SAYGO rings out and that's when players turn over their tiles and start, in frenzied earnestness, to make a crossword using their tiles. The first player to use all eight tiles will call out SAYGO, and everyone grabs another tile from the table. It is possible, after that pick, to rearrange your tiles to include the new letter but remember, you are playing against opponents and rearranging letters might just be time wasted! The game continues in this very fast-paced manner until all 120 tiles have been used and first player to use all tiles in that round yells DONE! Words in each player's grid are checked for validity and scoring is quick and easy, all clearly explained in the rules. There are many options, including a very good way to mix children and adults, a nice bonus not too often found in word games. But no matter how you play, we promise, you will play it again and again. So we SAY, GO!

Wheel of Fortune Card Game

8 and up 2-4 players There are two absolutely amazing aspects to this game: 1, they turned a well-decked out TV show with lights, colors, action and a spinning wheel into a card game and 2: they created a "spinning wheel" without spinning and without a wheel. The "wheel" is in the form of 25 cards (this is, after all, a card game) and the "contestant" calls out a number and then counts off the "wheel" cards to reach that number. The designated card reveals anything the real wheel might show: money amount, lose a turn, bankrupt, even free spin. The lovely tin box holds everything needed to play Wheel of Fortune, including a wipe-off puzzle board where letters are written in with the included dry erase-marker, and another wipe-off board for scoring. There are many elements to this game so patience is needed to study the rules and learn all the features that are part of the TV game, such as a bonus round (which is timed with the included timer) and bonus prizes from new car to $100,000! Different rounds have additional rules for a Jackpot prize and an Escape Trip prize. I can't imagine playing Wheel without the rules right at hand but solving the puzzle is as much fun on your table as on your TV.

Play on Words
8 to adult Before you take your trip (the box rightfully declares this is "portable travel fun") be sure to get a Phillips-head screwdriver and two AAA batteries, which are easy to install. Pad and pencil, not included, is a must. Ready to go? Shake up the tiles in the dome -- but don't think this is an ordinary "find words in there" game; this is an extraordinary "find words in there and write them out on a sheet of paper in crossword puzzle style" challenge. I would have finished this review ten minutes sooner but I kept stopping to play, and managed to get my score up from 20 to 35 on the third go-around. Scoring is based on number of letters in each word, from 0 for two letters to 100 for eight letters. I found three and four words most prevalent. There are rules, too, about the letters that must be used to start your crossword puzzle, along with penalties and bonuses. Warning: this is addictive and as of now, I am not even looking for a cure; I'm having too much fun.

8 and up Each set of Teazers (and there are currently three editions) consists of more than 500 puzzles printed on individual cards and packaged in a very portable plastic box with a secure cover. Carrying it around is easy and you will want to do just that for any time spent waiting around. The puzzles range from easy to medium to challenging and all are fun! For example: finish this phrase: play cat and _____ or look at this word O U T and figure why it is printed that way, or think about these words and ponder what they have in common: diamond ring; a story; a toaster. These three puzzles fall into categories of phrase finish (play cat and mouse), position puzzles (O U T means spread out!) and commonyms: a diamond ring, a story and a toaster all have settings. The number of players is not designated as clearly one may play alone, with another person or a whole group of restless people waiting, for example, for a meeting to begin. Take the restlessness out of the room by picking up a card and reading: What is the common trait in a brain, hair and an ocean. Somebody will surely holler out wave, and the crowd will wave you on to play some more.

[Gloria Rosenthal reviews board games year-round and was the founder of the annual word-lovers weekend at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York.]

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"I, quartz pyx, who fling mud beds."

ivory pyx

[photo by mharrsch, of an ivory (not a quartz) pyx]

Interested in holo-alphabetic sentences? Think you would be, but aren't sure what they are? Then you might want to check out Russell Slocum's article from Vol. II/4, newly digital here.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I was thinking of Dwight Bolinger the other day (as you do) and remembered that he had written a very nice short article about "Darn!" for VERBATIM back in the day.



Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Letters, We Get Letters

One of my favorite parts of VERBATIM has always been the letters to the editor. They're often more like bite-size articles than like traditional letters to the editor. This one, below, was the first letter in Volume I, No. 1, from Eric Hamp.

Dear Sir:

People often wonder where words come from. I hope I won't be interfering with the smooth flow of linguistic history by writing this note.

Back in the dim mists of ages past when my wife and I were young and reckless we were walking along the sandy shores of Lake Michigan, just enjoying the early summer day and picking up pebbles and stones. We felt their smooth roundness and admired their varied subdued colours. Feeling the smooth odd-shaped ones we mused on the Chinese habit of holding nice jade lumps just for the fun of feeling them; hand jades they called them, didn't they? So we discovered you could also feel and stroke yourself with an eye jade, just right for the eye socket, or a nose jade, cool along the nostril, or a funny horseshoe wrist jade. We ended up the day taking home a nice longish waisted foot jade.

Splendid for resting your arch on the floor of the shower; we've had one in our shower almost ever since. When I sit and write or type I like to set my foot or both feet on a foot jade. This past autumn, arriving in Aberystwyth for a year of writing and research, my daughter Julijana soon appeared from a walk along the sea front and the beach with a fine grey foot jade which she presented me with; I'm comfortably propped on it right now.

And just the other day it happened again, for about the fourth time. My 7 year old son Alexander and his friend Chris were playing here near my table. "What's that?!" said Chris in his fine clear Welsh-English tone. "Oh," said I, "It's a sort of stone that you can keep, a nice clean one you know, that you can put under the table, or anywhere, that you can put your..." Alexander, who often gets impatient with the deficiencies and ignorance of Chris who is after all more than 6 months his junior, interrupted me with crisp finality: "Why Chris, that's just a foot jade."

Nothing more was said until the next subject shifted the conversation.

Eric P. Hamp

University of Chicago Aberystwyth, Wales

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pairing Pairs

I got a call this morning from someone who had picked up the VERBATIM book and needed one of the answers in Larry Urdang's Pairing Pairs explained. Which I did (possibly even to his satisfaction) ... but that motivated me to put up a link to Pairing Pairs here on the blog. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Laurence Urdang, Founding Editor

Laurence Urdang, VERBATIM's founding editor and one of the most prolific lexicographers of the English language, died August 21, in Connecticut.

Here is the link to The New York Times obituary; Ben Zimmer posts about Larry on Language Log; and I think the best obituary is the one in the London Times, here.

I owe Larry a tremendous personal debt, which, even if he had lived to 181, I could never have begun to repay. When VERBATIM was sold and turned into a non-profit, with a very young lexicographer of children's dictionaries (as I was then) installed as the new editor, he couldn't have been more gracious. He answered all my (often very dumb) questions, and told me many marvelous anecdotes along the way (most of which I should not share).

The next issue of VERBATIM will be slightly (more) delayed so that I can insert a few pages of the "Best of Urdang"; subscribers who would like to send personal reminiscences should do so via email to

If you would like to send condolences to Larry's family, please email me at the address above and I will be happy to forward messages or to send you an address for letters and cards. The family has requested no flowers; if you would like to make a tangible remembrance, I suggest donating a copy of Larry's last book, The Last Word, to your local library in his name.

Here is a link to a semi-scathing review of The Feminist Dictionary, which Larry wrote for Vol. XIII/2, one of my favorites (and I say this as a feminist). His voice will be missed ...