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What's the largest possible 'word block' in scrabble?
January 17, 2011 7:59 PM   Subscribe

What's the largest possible solid block of words you can make in scrabble? I've gotten 3x3's in Words with Friends a bunch of times, but never a 4x4. Is it possible? Are larger ones possible?
posted by empath to Writing & Language (31 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
 AA
ABBA
ABBA
 AA

posted by Meatbomb at 8:02 PM on January 17, 2011


There aren't that many Bs are there? Doesn't the NYT crossword have bigger than 4x4 blocks?
posted by doublehappy at 8:04 PM on January 17, 2011


Are you interested in the largest word square, or the largest possible word square that could be constructed in a game of Scrabble going turn by turn while only making valid words? These will come apart.
posted by painquale at 8:05 PM on January 17, 2011


If you don't care about the turn-by-turn constraint, see here.
posted by painquale at 8:07 PM on January 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I want to know the largest one that could theoretically be played legally in a game.
posted by empath at 8:12 PM on January 17, 2011


Also, it doesn't necessarily need to be a perfect square.
posted by empath at 8:14 PM on January 17, 2011


There are a bunch of 5x5 that are constructable from the tiles in scrabble here, but I don't think they could have actually been played in a game.
posted by empath at 8:23 PM on January 17, 2011


Pretty sure you could play the word square on that wikipedia page as a series of turns. Whether they'd be good turns is another option.

1. start
C A R D
2. cross
C A R D
A
R
D
3. all legal moves
C A R D
A R E A
R
D
4. still okay
C A R D
A R E A
R
D A R T
5. pow
C A R D
A R E A
R E A R
D A R T
So this is five As, one C, two Ds, two Es, five Rs and one T. Those all work. I bet a fiver is possible too.
posted by jessamyn at 8:37 PM on January 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's not as hard as you might think for a given 5x5 block to be possible to play in a Scrabble game. If you play row 1, column 1, row 3, column 3, row 5, and column 5, only 1 play actually has to form 2 words other than the 5-letter words.


BRAWL
RADII
OZONE
WEBER
NEEDS

Plays:

1) BRAWL
2) BROWN
3) OZONE
4) ADOBE
5) NEEDS
6) LIERS
7) RAZEE, RAD, and WEB
8) WINED, RADII, and WEBER

So given that 5x5 block, after confirming all letters are in a Scrabble set, RAD and WEB are the only words you have to find to make this a theoretically possible Scrabble result, and there's 4 different places to find that such a set of words.

I'm thinking the largest possible block is much bigger than 5x5.
posted by scottreynen at 8:40 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has it been established that Words With Friends has the same letter distribution as Scrabble? If the question regards legally-playable possibilities, this will be important.
posted by Su at 8:47 PM on January 17, 2011


Okay, so I'm bored.

The distributions are different: Scrabble | Words With Friends (scroll way down)
posted by Su at 8:50 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are a bunch of 5x5 that are constructable from the tiles in scrabble here, but I don't think they could have actually been played in a game.

I've been looking at the one on the right in the first row on that page. It could be achieved in normal play with the following moves:

1) AWARD
2) AZON
3) ERSES
4) AFOUL
5) AGATE
6) TEN (FER)
7) DOLES
8) ROUGE (ZOO)
9) GAZOO

Haven't looked at the others.
posted by trip and a half at 9:16 PM on January 17, 2011


Note: I don't know which dictionary lists GAZOO as valid -- none of mine do.
posted by trip and a half at 9:24 PM on January 17, 2011


Note also: I am an idiot. He says he's using TWL06.
posted by trip and a half at 9:27 PM on January 17, 2011


I've been thinking about this more, and I think the answer is probably a 7x7 block. My thinking is the hardest part of any size block is finding the words to fill in the gaps in the initial grid. Since you only have 7 letters on a turn, anything more than that would require more steps toward building words, which would be much harder to do, and you'd also have more of those gaps, so many more words involved in each plays, and enough letters that running out of letters starts to be a real concern. I suspect all of that complexity makes 8x8 impossible.

Assuming 7x7 is possible, here's how I'd approach finding it: the first step is to find blocks of 7x7 interlocking valid words. Given all of those blocks, we find which ones have valid plays. The first plays should be to fill in rows and columns 1, 3, 5, and 7. We already know all of these plays are valid, as they create only 7-letter words. Next, we fill in rows or columns 2 and 6, making 3 3-letter words on each play in addition to the known 7-letter words. Given a valid 7x7 block, these are the only 2 questionable plays, so all we'd really need to check for. And finally, we fill in 4, again making only 7-letter words, already determined to be valid.
posted by scottreynen at 9:48 PM on January 17, 2011


Jessamyn -- some play with a rule that you can't play the same word twice on a single board of scrabble.
posted by custard heart at 9:51 PM on January 17, 2011


some play with a rule that you can't play the same word twice on a single board of scrabble.

Some people aren't playing scrabble. The rules are printed inside the lid of the box. That's why I keep both a new set and an old set, in case I'm not in the mood for challenges.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:12 PM on January 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


I play with a rule that when you get a DLS and a TWS on the same play, you get all the money from Free Parking.

I think that scottreymen is right that the theoretical max is probably around 7x7 (though I have a feeling an 8x8 might be possible), but I think the limit might have less to do with the number of tiles in a rack and more to do with the letter distribution among the tiles.

Just using the 7x7 example from the Wikipedia page:

B R A V A D O
R E N A M E D
A N A L O G Y
V A L U E R S
A M O E B A S
D E G R A D E
O D Y S S E Y

This one uses every A, B, D, M, S and Y in the tile set. Even with the two blanks, I suspect that the letters you'd need to go much bigger just aren't there.
posted by box at 10:28 PM on January 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Jeez, I hate to be that guy, but a problem with Jessamyn's grid is that "Da" is not in the Offical Scrabble Dictionary, so the use of "area" wouldn't be allowed (see her #3). I know, because I keep trying to use it and the !@#$$%^&* dictionary won't let me. The smallest words that begin with "Da" are three letters, starting with "dab." Of course, if you're playing with somebody who isn't aware that the Scrabble dictionary forbids "da," then by all means use it.
posted by KingEdRa at 12:07 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Da is UK-legal.

Empath, does the game have to be US-legal or just somewhere-legal?
posted by the latin mouse at 1:24 AM on January 18, 2011


Da is diminutive for father. The first rule of Scrabble is to agree upon a dictionary, so the players may choose the international scrabble dictionary, that is inclusive of all the standardized scrabble dictionaries. They can also choose their Junior High Webster's. Unless it's tournament play, were entrants agree to agree that the dictionary used for that tournament is the one specified by the tournament organizers.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:16 AM on January 18, 2011


Empath, does the game have to be US-legal or just somewhere-legal?

either.
posted by empath at 5:01 AM on January 18, 2011


Da is UK-legal.

Whoops, yeah sorry it's okay in the version that I play (SOWPODS) and over time I've gotten less and less familiar with the other official dictionary versions.

some play with a rule that you can't play the same word twice on a single board of scrabble.

Totally fine, but that's a family rule not an official one. I used to play with a "RE rule" which was that any verb you could stick RE in front of was okay even if it led to some amusing-sounding words [RE-kill, RE-die] just because it was easier than digging through the list in the dictionary. This is yet another way that the computer has changed my life.
posted by jessamyn at 7:26 AM on January 18, 2011


The oldest and best known one is a 5x5 Latin palindrome found in the ruins of Pompeii. It reads the same top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top, left-to-right, and right-to-left.

SATOR
AREPO
TENET
OPERA
ROTAS

See here.
posted by KRS at 7:48 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's why I keep both a new set and an old set, in case I'm not in the mood for challenges.

If that was unclear, what I meant, was that the original, older, rules don't impose a penalty on the challenger. I forget if the person playing a wrong word simply retrieves their tiles, and tries again, (with the strategic penalty of having revealed some of their tray,) or if they lose their turn.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:55 AM on January 18, 2011


This is tricky because of the order played for legal turns e.g. most of the squares you played there generate illegal 2,3 or 4 letter words.

I have sent an email to a MAVEN, back soon.
posted by lalochezia at 11:14 AM on January 18, 2011


PS: This will be solved by running a computer simulation of 10^x games where x is a number between 10-20 (!).

For those of you who don't get the MAVEN ref, see here.
posted by lalochezia at 11:19 AM on January 18, 2011


FWIW: SOWPODS is the standard for tournaments outside of the US and Canada (and Thailand, for some reason). The less amusingly initialed TWL is the standard in those countries.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:48 PM on January 18, 2011


From the Horse's mouth:

--

This answer comes from one of Quackle's programmers, John O'Laughlin.
Don't know if it's the only one, or how many there are.

Joel Sherman

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2011 19:08:56 -0500
Subject: Re: [cgp] Unusual scrabble problem..... (fwd)

I don't believe it can be done, even in Collins. There are many
8x8 squares, but none can be formed with a Scrabble set.
I submitted a 7x7 several years ago for a Scrabble News contest,
maximizing the total score. The final position was

JEWELER
ELAPINE
WAXINGS
EPIMERE
LINEMAN
ENGRAFT
RESENTS

I don't remember all the plays, but it's not hard to build.

John
posted by lalochezia at 7:35 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't remember all the plays, but it's not hard to build.
I disagree; I found it very hard to build. In case it's driving anyone else crazy like it was me, here it is:
1.

EPIMERE

2.

   E
   P
   I
EPIMERE
   E
   R
   E

3.

JEWELER
   P
   I
EPIMERE
   E
   R
   E

4.

JEWELER
E  P
W  I
EPIMERE
L  E
E  R
R  E

5.

JEWELER
E  P 
W  I
EPIMERE
L  E
ENGRAFT
R  E

6.

JEWELER
E  P N
W  I G
EPIMERE
L  E A
ENGRAFT
R  E T

7.

JEWELER
EL P N
W  I G
EPIMERE
L  E A
ENGRAFT
R  E T

8.

JEWELER
EL PINE
W  I G
EPIMERE
L  E A
ENGRAFT
R  E T

9.

JEWELER
EL PINE
W  I G
EPIMERE
LI E A
ENGRAFT
RE E T

10.

JEWELER
ELAPINE
W XI G
EPIMERE
LINE A
ENGRAFT
RE E T

11.

JEWELER
ELAPINE
WAXING
EPIMERE
LINE A
ENGRAFT
RE E T

12.

JEWELER
ELAPINE
WAXINGS
EPIMERE
LINE AN
ENGRAFT
RE E T

13.

JEWELER
ELAPINE
WAXINGS
EPIMERE
LINE AN
ENGRAFT
RESENTS

14.

JEWELER
ELAPINE
WAXINGS
EPIMERE
LINEMAN
ENGRAFT
RESENTS

posted by scottreynen at 7:01 PM on January 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well that's fairly conclusive, I think.
posted by empath at 4:21 AM on January 21, 2011


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