Great things can come out of hard times — take Scrabble. During the Great Depression, architect Alfred Mosher Butts couldn’t find work. So he decided to create a board game that required the vocabulary skills of anagrams and crossword puzzles but also had an element of chance. Butts hand-drew the original board with architectural drafting equipment. He also hand-lettered the tiles. He studied the front page of the New York Times, the New York Herald Tribune, and The Saturday Evening Post to calculate the frequency of each letter in the alphabet and then came up with a point value system. At first, the game was named Lexiko. Then he called it Criss-Cross Words. Butts’ story was not one of success from the start. He tried and failed to sell Criss-Cross Words to game manufacturers. Milton Bradley rejected the game in 1933. James Brunot came on board as a business partner, and renamed the game Scrabble, which means “to scratch or scrape” and “to scrawl.” (On the topic of game names, have you ever wondered what “sudoku” literally means? Here’s the answer.) Then Butts and Brunot set up a Scrabble factory in an abandoned schoolhouse in Connecticut. Times were tough until Macy’s began selling the game in the early 1950s. Soon people around the country were eager to test their vocabulary skills with the game.
Do you consider yourself a Scrabble whiz? Test yourself with these Scrabble facts.
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