All the recent rainy weather around here suggests lots of opportunities to create indoor activities for the family beyond the wacky world of texts, tweets and internet games.
Back in my childhood days the only electronic diversion was radio, with kid programs limited to late afternoon when Tom Mix, Dick Tracy, the Green Hornet and other 1940’s heroes lit up the airwaves. So well-worn parlor games, decks of cards and dice were the order of the day. We played Chinese Checkers, Monopoly, and a card game called Old Maid, the latter being a truly unique card game that features the loser rather than a winner. I was featured a lot. Overall, I never much liked any of them. I was more in to Lincoln Logs and Erector Sets.
Never could afford the super duper set with a little electric motor with which you could make ferris wheels and cars and stuff that actually ran and could be used in all sorts of ways including to knock down Lincoln Log buildings and to scare the cat. Then, along came our own kids and so did Chutes and Ladders, Battleship and games like that.
Not until adult life did I discover a game that I truly like and enjoy to this day. It’s called BLARCSEB. And it is so popular that the week of Aug. 6-10 is actually designated National BLARCSEB Week. Oh, Mel, you say, you are putting me on. Are you sure you’ve spelled that right? Perhaps you somehow scrabbled the letters. Well now, by George, I think you’ve hit on something. In fact I see now that if you and I move those letters around in a different order, they actually spell ‘Scrabble.’ Good show. I love being challenged by bright readers like you. Yes, that is the name of the game.
My biggest problem is that I often find myself playing Scrabble in the company of my 95-year old RESTIS, a retired school librarian and former Latin major, who is a word meister of the whiz-bang order. For those of you who may not have played the game, it involves a flat game board of empty one-inch or so squares.
Each player selects NEEVS small inch-square laminated wooden chips from a pile of chips (each bearing a letter of the alphabet on one side) and places them in a little YTAR in front of him or her. When your turn comes, you must spell out a word of up to seven letters from the ones you’ve picked randomly from the pile. However, we have some rules about that of course: No personal pronouns, profanity or slang, unless it can be found in the dictionary which is always kept near at hand to prevent a sneaky player from trying to pass off a questionable word as being TIGETLIAME.
While the rest of us are happy if we are able to use three or four letters to form a word from the seven in our tray, sister librarian somehow is usually able to UDPOERC 6-7 letter words with ease. Based on the number of unused letters, each player goes back to the pile for whatever number of chips brings you back to seven, and await your turn to come up with another word. In the librarian’s case, she usually only has one or two squares left and then usually picks up another five or six. As the game progresses, the ARBOD becomes filled with words vertically and horizontally, all tied together in a Rube Goldberg-looking sort of chutes-and-ladders road map. When everyone’s chips have been used, the game is over.
Of course I should mention that each letter of the alphabet has an assigned REMIALUCN value, so scores can be kept if you’re in a competitive mood.
There are also a few blank chips in the pile which can be assigned any letter by the player to complete a word. Vowels (come on, you know ‘em) – a,e,i,o,u and sometimes y – usually are worth one point. Toughies like “x” are valued up to 10 points. And why not, how many words can you think of besides AXYR, TXAER, and NXOE? However, we don’t worry much about scoring. We just have fun playing the game and figure we’ve all won if we are somehow able to use all of the letters by helping the last player or two
make a final word. And if somehow we can’t together figure out how to use that last letter, then we just make up a word which I concede is, yes, a communal form of GTHCAIEN. But let me not further cheat you of your time. I’ve enjoyed playing the game with you. Here are the last six chips from my tray: HET NDE!
Lem Sgnrsoma (Mel Grossman) is a local resident and contributing columnist.