Not beany enough

The other night, I was playing a friendly game of Scrabble®, and I managed to play BEANIER* (meaning "with a stronger flavor of beans") onto a triple-word score, crossing the B with an open Y, scoring over 100 points in the process. This sufficiently demoralized the other players that the game turned into "play anything that vaguely resembles a word, with creative spelling encouraged."

It turns out that BEANIER* is not listed in the online versions of the SOWPODS or TWL Scrabble word lists, although I made the move in good faith. If the others had thought to challenge, they would've succeeded.

My brother and I play Scrabble with very different styles. I'm not so much concerned with scoring (although I certainly try to make high-scoring moves) as I am with having a pretty board with a lot of intersections and clever words. I treat Scrabble as a collaborative effort that happens to have a winner at the end, in the same spirit as shows like My Music or Says You. As a result, I don't pay too much attention to whether I'm opening easy access to a triple-word square, and I will forego a higher-scoring play in favor of one that uses a funny word or which connects two parts of the board. If you look at my scoresheet at the end of the game, it consists of a lot of medium-scoring moves (and a few really pathetic ones), with maybe one "super-move" per game where I play a bingo or otherwise manage to rack up a lot of points at one go.

My brother's approach is much more methodical. He doesn't play a very flashy game; he just focuses on scoring twenty or more points per move. If you look at his scoresheet, it's just a slow, steady climb to the final tally.

This means that when we play, it's a competition between the tortoise and the hare. (I'm the hare.) Will my "super-move" be enough to hold off the steady erosion of my lead from the constant barrage of strong moves? Usually, the answer is No. Slow and steady wins the race. But I like to think I have more fun.

Comments (27)
  1. steven says:

    Hm. What is the asterisk for?

    Is it just a clever ploy to get the word “beanier” to show up in Google (or Bing) and become a perfectly cromulent word before your next game of Scrabble?

    [The asterisk is standard Scrabble notation for “this is not a legal word in Scrabble.” -Raymond]
  2. Benjimawoo says:

    My friends and I play a variation of your playing style. We play rude word Scrabble, going for fun rather than profit (I think we’ve given up scoring it now). We just basically play any words that look or sound… well… rude.

    The real fun comes in the challenges, particularly where a word is deemed ‘not rude’. More or less any word can be made rude by saying it in the most inuendo-laden voice, with accompanying hand signals and facial expressions. The other fallback is to aggressively call someone ‘you [your word]’.

    ‘Twas great fun a while ago trying to justify how ‘those’ was a rude word.

  3. "Beanier"?

    You’re lucky I wasn’t there… I would totally have challenged.  (I would have challenged "beany" too.)

    The word you’re probably looking for is "bean-y" which is not Scrabble-worthy since it contains punctuation.

  4. Tom says:

    @Maurits: If Raymond had dropped the ‘r’ it would have been a perfectly acceptable word, although it might have cost him that triple word score.  ;)

  5. someone else says:

    Of course, the real funny way is to play — with great confidence — a completely made-up word, wait till someone extends it (like plural) and then call them on it.

    Exvin, anyone?

  6. dave says:

    I’m not so much concerned with scoring (although I certainly try to make high-scoring moves) as I am with having a pretty board with a lot of intersections and clever words.

    In my household, we refer to the concept of ‘aesthetic points’.   Nobly going for the low scoring play with high aesthetic points wins you admiration.  If you go for a high score play with no redeeming qualities (as sometimes you have to do, since we still play to win), you are supposed to apologize.

  7. Gabe says:

    I usually think it’s lame when somebody makes a bunch of 2- and 3-letter words on a play. I think that playing more tiles is always better than playing more words.

  8. mark says:

    My favorite scrabble strategy is to play a word that looks made up, but actually is a word. As a bonus of drawing these kind of challenges, your opponent will likely be more hesitant on future challenges and my let more questionable words pass.

    Some words that usually draw challenges.


    ZA (i once got 64 points with this one.)



    Challenging words in scrabble has some strange strategic consequences depending on the value of the play. I generally won’t challenge low scoring plays, as it is usually not worth the risking a turn for it; another way to look at it if they are wasting a turn with a low scoring play, why not let it stand. There are exceptions, e.x. the play blocks an good spot on the board.

    On the other hand very high scoring plays will be challenged if they are slightly questionable.

  9. DWalker says:

    I don’t usually worry about opening up a triple-word for someone else; I’m not that ruthlessly competitive — I try to have fun and I enjoy putting letters "parallel" to an existing word, making two or three 2-letter words in the process. I think that’s fun!

    Also, adding letters to the start and/or end of existing words to make completely different words, but not "prefixes" in the usual sense.  Like changing "lad" to "glad" or "glade".  It’s more interesting that way.

  10. Jeremy says:

    That’s funny because I’ve actually played BEANIER before… but it didn’t fly, because it was a computer-based game.  

  11. Don Munsil says:

    I would have expected "Beanier" to be a special waiter in a French restaurant who goes over the various bean selections available and how they’ll pair with the entree. Pronounced BEAN-EE-AY, obviously.

    "The beanier recommended the haricots verts, but I favor the lentils du puy."

  12. Timothy Byrd says:

    "Nobly going for the low scoring play with high aesthetic points wins you admiration."

    Our family games of Mahjong were more on the fun side than the competitive side. If someone won several hands in a row – especially if they were easy, low-score hands – there would be significant moral pressure for them to go for something more classy for the rest of the evening. And if their luck was really in that night, they’d just continue winning but with high score or limit hands.

    On the other hand, running low on chips was an excuse to go for junk.

    — T

  13. jeffdav says:

    The coolest move is to play something you know isn’t a word, with confidence so nobody challenges.  Then you challenge when they attach a suffix or prefix.  :)

    Raymond, next time we’re in the same city, I challenge you to a game of scrabble.

  14. WhiteTiger says:

    My favorite scrabble non-word is still METACON

    (and it’s 7 letters!)

    I played it some years back when we played an intentional non-word game

    (proposed) definition: a fake meta-tag used to direct any search inquiry to a porn site

  15. Cheong says:

    Back when I was in secondary school, we played a variation of rules that if someone put the letters to and can make a new word in both direction, he / she gets the scores of both letters. Thus encourages people in making more crosswords. :)

  16. I always end up at the beach with people who have memorized the Scrabble dictionary, so it’s never any fun… unless we play MY rules: you can play any word you like, as long as you can provide a *plausible* definition for it and keep a straight face.  I always win those matches.

  17. But I like to think I have more fun.

    Different people have different pleasures, so you never know. :)

  18. UCS-32 says:

    Uppercase alphabetic scrabble is too easy, the Unicode port is far overdue.

  19. porter says:

    > I would have challenged "beany" too.

    You have a problem with woollen hats?

  20. Anonymuos says:

    Why isn’t there a free single player and multiplayer computer version of Microsoft Scrabble Deluxe for such a popular board/word game?

  21. steveg says:

    I play Scrabble two ways; seriously and for fun. I choose the appropriate mode based on the opposition. I’m not a particularly good player, but I’m better than someone who’s only played casually.

    I play like Raymond’s brother, strategically and with a view to points. And when everybody plays with that way… those are some of the most enjoyable and challenging games I’ve played. Who’s going to crack first and open up that triple-point square.

    The most fun way to play Scrabble I’ve found is 4 player with a *enforced* 30 or 60 second limit. It’s laughable chaos because everyone misses turns (that’s kind of the point of it).

    If I Ruled The World QI, ZO and ZA would be banned — or the 10 point tiles would be worth 1 point in words < 3 tiles. I’d also revise the entire 2 letter world list as well, it’s fairly ludicrous, CH in particular.

  22. My favourite variation is where we can use any combination of letters we like, as long as you can pronounce it and come up with a definition that just about makes sense.

    If you’ll excuse me, I need to ADETHOSE my GIRLING ZILLACKS.


    Alternative definition – a conference for people who put together conferences for a living.

    You have a problem with woollen hats?

    That’s "beanie."  Yes, "beany" is listed as an alternate spelling in some dictionaries, but not in the official Scrabble dictionaries.  So you can use it IRL but not at the board.

    I would also think seriously about challenging "woollen" (as opposed to "woolen") but apparently both variants are recognized (d’oh!)

  24. DWalker says:

    Anonymuos [sic]: There’s not a free computer game because the copyright holder hasn’t made one.  The copyright holder wants to "monetize" this valuable property.  Anyone can create an almost-look-alike game as long as there are some differences, like the board layout (placement of premium squares) has to be slightly different, and the point values might have to be different.

    My other half bought a multiplayer (one at a time) real Scrabble game for his blackberry phone, and we play it when we’re both waiting for something else to happen (handing the phone back and forth).  I think it was cheap, like $9.95 or something.  It also lets you play against the program.

  25. Anonymous says:

    for prettier boards I usually play with a rule requiring that any word have three or more letters – thus excluding "BY".

    However, that usually means that finishing all the tiles is usually next to impossible. But damm, does that board look pretty :D

  26. My friends and I often play Yahoo’s Literati. We call it Scrabble.

  27. Neil says:

    Presumably he changes tiles when he can’t score 20, or am I hopeless at Scrabble® and he can always score at least 20?

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