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Scrabble turns 60

Happy Birthday Scrabble!

By 1931, he had developed a word game that also had a bit of arithmetic thrown in, which he called Lexico. It was played without a board. He made about 200 copies which he sold or gave away, but it did not catch on.

Then in 1938, he had a better idea – inspired by the growing popularity of crosswords – and reinvented Lexico as a board game, which he called Criss Crosswords. The board has 225 squares and comes with 100 tiles, and as any muzhik (permissible Russian word meaning peasant – 24 points) knows, the idea is to make words from the letters on the tiles in the style of a crossword.

Before deciding what numerical value to give to each letter, Butts spent hours poring over the front pages of each day’s New York Times. His cryptographic (28 points, but you need two turns) analysis was so good that his points system and tile distribution have not been altered in seven decades. The rack that holds seven tiles at a time also dates back to 1938.

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