Jerry didn’t used to like playing Scrabble with me (used not to like?) because I usually whip him pretty soundly—for the same reason I don’t normally like to play chess with him.
But sometimes at a meal we pull out the Scrabble board, planning to play just a round or two, and as a result he is improving at an alarming rate. We don’t put restrictions on checking the dictionary (our Official Scrabble Players Dictionary was published in 1978; we have just ordered a new one), even to graze for possible combinations of letters we have in our hand.
So today he played “YAUD” (an old mare) and “WIVE” (to marry a woman) and “ZOOT”* among others. At one point he showed me the letters in his hand spelled HUMANITY (with nowhere to play it). I was impressed until I realized, “No wonder—you have eight letters!” I plucked one out at random to keep him legal and with a glance in the dictionary he produced HUMATE with the rest of them. (“A chemical salt,” he explained loftily.)
He’s also learning to fill in corners and gaps so he gets simultaneous credit for multiple vertical and horizontal words and to add prefixes and suffixes: he played FIX and later affixed the prefix AF- to it. He made some word into a gerund by poking an “N” between an existing I and G.
He was ahead for most of the game and would have beaten me if he’d been able to play his one remaining letter—if, for instance, ZOOTQ had been in the dictionary.
* Turns out even ZOOT is not in the OSPD, although ZOOTY, ZOOTIER and ZOOTIEST are. I accepted the word because I had heard of zoot suits, although I know even less about the word “zoot” than I did since I found a website that defines it as “Spliff, joint.”