DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Jun 15 2014

Puzzle Me This…or That

by Dea Anne M

A couple of years ago I was visiting my family in south Georgia, visits that I wish were more frequent, and my nephew–then eight years old and as social a creature as has ever been born–was, as usual, directing our activities. He was mad at me because I had just beaten him at Scrabble. I reminded him that:

1. “You’re eight.”

2. “I only beat you by three points.”

He was having none of it. Revenge was the only viable option. Smiling an evil eight-year-old smile, he pulled out the Harry Potter board game.  Announcing that he would be playing the role of the Sorting Hat, he put us into our houses. He, of course, went to Gryffindor. His mother and his aunt were put into Ravenclaw.  I’ll leave you to guess which house I went to.

Here’s a hint–there were four of us playing and no one was sorted into Hufflepuff.

I hope I’m not making my beloved nephew out to be a brat. He’s a wonderful kid and he’s one of the people in the world I most enjoy hanging out with.

But he is a sore loser.

Come to think of it, I’m kind of a sore loser too–at least when it comes to Scrabble. Because I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember and because I have what I think of as a decent vocabulary, I always feel as though I should be a better Scrabble player than I am. I’ve only recently come to realize that most of the really good Scrabble players that I’ve known are people who can easily visualize words “hidden” inside a random collection of letters. These are the same people who can whip through the “jumble” puzzle in the daily paper. I am not one of those people.

Still, I think I am pretty good at recognizing patterns in terms of colors and shapes, which is what makes working jigsaw puzzles so much fun for me. Along with board games of all sorts, we were always a puzzle family–my mom especially, and she and I would often stay up into the wee hours to finish a particularly difficult or intriguing puzzle.

So what’s your pleasure–Scrabble or jigsaw puzzles? While you ponder that question let me suggest a couple of titles from DCPL that you might find interesting.

Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of freakCompetitive Scrabble Players by Stefan Fatsis concerns itself with the world of hard core tournament players. These are not your Scrabble-on-a-lazy-afternoon type of folks. These are people who know all sorts of words that use the letter “x” (worth 8 points) or “q” (10 points!). These are people who not only know the word “qepiq” but will be prepared to defend it against all challengers. (It is an Azerbaijani unit of currency.) Fascinating, and well worth reading even if you don’t have a particular passion for Scrabble.

carpetIf you’re a jigsaw puzzle buff or if you are a fan of intelligent, literate memoir, then check out The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws by the British author Margaret Drabble. Drabble combines interesting facts about the history of jigsaws with her own history to make a beautifully written whole piece. Wonderfully entertaining, I recommend this book for a rainy day when you can curl up in a comfortable corner and really take your time–which on certain days might describe my perfect afternoon.

Are there other types of puzzles or board games that you enjoy?


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Joseph M June 16, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Neat post, Dea Anne. I like to think I have a good vocabulary, but I almost never find myself winning at Scrabble. Even so, I would say I’m more of a Scrabble fan than a jigsaw puzzle fan, although I do enjoy puzzles on occasion.

Greg H. June 16, 2014 at 5:33 PM

I remember being so disappointed to find that competitive Scrabble players aren’t about playing big, juicy words; rather they’re all about the points, and of course winning, so some tiny word on a triple word square is just fine with them. I like to win too, but I really enjoy finding some unexpected word hidden within my tiles. Although I will file the word “qepiq” away for use at some later date.

Hope L June 17, 2014 at 2:10 PM

Dea Anne, I’m a big Scrabble fan and even belonged to a Scrabble club and went to a national competition in College Park a few years ago. I beat a couple of people, but mostly I got whupped, even by a 13-year-old. Those people are quite serious about their Scrabble!

Veronica W June 18, 2014 at 1:03 PM

Scrabble is a given for me. However I also buy those jumbo Variety Puzzles books and have months (ok, weeks) of different puzzles. I especially enjoy the cryptograms and syllacrostics. Now and then I go slumming and do some of the “find the identical or hidden pictures.”

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