If old habits die hard, it shouldn't be a problem to read the dictionary.
Way back when I played Boggle with friends, I spent a lot of time looking through the dictionary to find unusual words because you never knew where those rotten little letter cubes would fall and preparation seemed wise.
Last month my daughter hooked me on Scrabble. We play through Facebook. That, in itself, surprises me since I never go on Facebook to do anything or read boards or walls or whatever those are called. But I'm spending time these days playing Scrabble. Usually late at night.
What I like best are those games when we play immediately, as if sitting across the table from one another. There's even a little chat spot, so when my opponent played ritzy with a triple word space, I had to write to say well done.
So far, and likely ever, my best single-word score is 70. Found an open "I" when I had the rest of the word irrigate. All seven letters with a couple double-letter spaces included. There's a 50-point bonus for using all seven letters.
Some guy hit me twice in the same game using all seven letters. He beat me by enough points to reduce the national debt, had we been using dollars. My daughter said there are programs where you key in all your letters and the program finds the best word for a high score.
Which brings up what is fast becoming a pet peeve.
Why does winning a game from a stranger make it necessary to cheat? And cheating it is when someone - or some program - chooses the words to use. Honestly, just by playing you learn what's good to use and what can't be used, though it's more difficult for me to remember what can't be used.
Sometimes I just throw letters at the board and hope they come down in some semblance of order. The machine tells you when it isn't a word, then I just change vowels or rearrange letters to see what works. Surprised the tar out of me when J-I-N turned out to be a word, but the surprise increased exponentially when my opponent stuck a D before it. That's just not right. Doesn't even look right. Then again, neither does X-I. Getting past that was tough enough, then somebody plopped an S at the end of it.
Playing Scrabble, like playing solitaire, keeps my mind actively looking for more than what's readily seen. Still, I sometimes play a word after studying the board carefully and just after I hit the send button, I see a spot where I could have earned 10 more points. There's no call-back button either. This is a think-hard situation, for sure.
Then, when you think there's absolutely no way to get more than two points for N-O, you suddenly see holes in the board that fill in to make a great word using double-word spaces. That's a good feeling. Makes me want to write "take that" in the chat spot. Especially when I'm way behind in points.
So long friends, until the next time when we're together.
Sandy Mickelson, retired lifestyle editor for The Messenger, may be reached at email@example.com.