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13 Scrabble Facts Even Super-Fans Don’t Know About

While most players know there are 100 tiles and that the person who picks the letter closest to A goes first, there are a few facts that even super-fans will be surprised to learn.

scrabble boardMatthew Cohen/rd.com

Scrabble was invented by an unemployed architect

While you might assume Scrabble was invented by a writer, teacher, or librarian, that honor actually goes to Alfred Mosher Butts, an out of work architect from Poughkeepsie, New York. He combined elements from anagrams and crossword puzzles to create a scoring word game. He derived the letter distribution by studying the front page of the New York Times. You’re not really a superfan if you don’t know these obscure Scrabble rules even serious players may not know.

scrabble lexicoMatthew Cohen/rd.com

Scrabble was not the game’s original moniker

Scrabble was originally called “Lexico” and later named “Criss Cross Words” before gaining its permanent moniker. It was first called Scrabble by James Brunot, a friend of inventor Butts, who played the games with him. After coining the name Scrabble for the games, Brunot and his wife created a partnership and began manufacturing the game in 1948.

macys scrabbleMatthew Cohen/rd.com

Macy’s placed the first big Scrabble order

Scrabble history notes that the president of Macy’s played the game while on vacation and ordered a few games for his store. Sales soared and within a year, the game was a huge hit and games were rationed to stores around the country.

Ganesh asirvatham scrabble malaysiaMatthew Cohen/rd.com

A man from Malaysia is the top-rated Scrabble player in the world.

Ganesh Asirvatham is the world’s top-rated Scrabble player by the World English Language Scrabble Players Association. He has played 636 games winning 450 games, losing 185 with one draw. His high game score was 709 and his low score was 264.

scrabble letters pouring outMatthew Cohen/rd.com

Qi is one of the top words to win at Scrabble.

Merriam-Webster notes that the top words to win at Scrabble include qi, za, phoney, retinas, xu, zlotty, hook, gyoza, bingo, and amigo. You’ll also want to memorize these 30 little-known words that will help you score big.

scrabble dictionaryMatthew Cohen/rd.com

Over 300 words were added to the game last year

Last September, Merriam-Webster added over 300 words to the Sixth Edition of The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. It is officially OK to use the word OK as well as these 14 other words added to the Scrabble dictionary.

sinatra scrabble lettersMatthew Cohen/rd.com

Famous crooners have featured the game in lyrics

Frank Sinatra added nine games of Scrabble to his take of the 12 Days of Christmas in 1968. Kylie Minogue complained that the subject of her song “Your Disco Needs You” was, “useless at Scrabble.” In his song, “You Can Have the TV,” Barry Manilow also said that you can keep the Scrabble game too.

men women scrabbleMatthew Cohen/rd.com

Men and women play Scrabble for different reasons

A study in Psychological Research showed that men and women play the game to meet different needs. Men focus their energy on practicing anagrams and evaluating the game while women are more apt to play Scrabble as a hobby. There’s also this other reason men do better at Scrabble than women.

scrabble game show cashMatthew Cohen/rd.com

Scrabble was a television game show

The show, which aired from 1984 to 1990, was hosted by Chuck Woolery. At first, the contestants received $25 for each correct letter creating a pot if they won the round, but the rules quickly changed to each round being worth $500.

scrabble robot lettersMatthew Cohen/rd.com

If you play the Scrabble robot, you will never win

Attention Super Scrabble players who are getting bored playing with mere mortals: There is a new kid on the block, a robot equipped with AI and a camera. News flash, the robot wins every game but doles out consolation prizes.

scrabble visionMatthew Cohen/rd.com

You can play Scrabble even if you can’t see well

There is a Deluxe Scrabble for easy-to-see bold print for individuals with low vision. There is also a Deluxe Scrabble Game in Braille with tactile markings so people can play by touch.

scrabble lettersMatthew Cohen/rd.com

There have been a few scandals in Scrabble championships over the years

You wouldn’t think that a game as genteel as Scrabble would be associated with bad behavior, but every once in a while, players get caught cheating. Scandals include a player smuggling in a pocket full of blank tiles and another hiding a “G” in another player’s pocket. Players aren’t the only ones who make mistakes—you’ll get a laugh with these fake words that actually ended up in the dictionary.

love scrabble lettersMatthew Cohen/rd.com

Celebrities are among the millions of people who love Scrabble

The makers of Scrabble report that Scrabble can be found in three of every five American homes. Countless celebrities talk about their L-O-V-E for the game including Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake. If you love word games of all kinds, you should also know these 13 words that will help you conquer any crossword puzzle.

Stacey Marcus
Stacey Marcus is a regular contributor to RD.com where she covers subjects ranging from penguin secrets to Jeopardy! conundrums. Stacey’s work has also appeared on FamilyHandyman.com and TheHealthy.com as well as in top regional and national outlets including Boston magazine, Boston Common Magazine, Destination I Do, Ocean Home Magazine, and Playboy.com. She earned a BA in Communications from Simmons University.