How the ‘Scrabble’ letter points were decided

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When you reach Scrabbledrawstring bag of tiles and pull out a X, a Q, and one Z all in one handful, it’s hard to suppress a little moan. As one of the less common letters in the English language, they are notoriously difficult to place on the board, especially Q, considering that it should generally (but not always) be followed by a U.

However, the high values ​​assigned to these rare tiles can easily make up for the difficulty of forming words with them. For example, a well placed Z, which is worth 10 points, could increase your score much more than a point A Where NOT. It makes sense that less common letters are worth more points, but how did the game makers decide exactly how to distribute them?

All that begin during the Great Depression, when an unemployed architect named Alfred Mosher Butts spent time studying games like bingo, chess, and anagrams. He came to the conclusion that word games weren’t as popular because there just wasn’t a good way to keep score. So Butts devised his own pun, a fusion of crosswords and anagrams that he called Lexiko, so Cross words, and finally, Scrabble.

To figure out how to score it, Butts looked no further than the first page of The New York Times. According to South Florida reporter, he counted the number of times each letter appeared on paper and used that data to determine two things: how many points each letter would be worth and how many tiles there would be for each letter.

While the dictionary of words deemed admissible in Scrabble has evolved since the board game first hit shelves around 1950, the initial values ​​of Butts’ letters have remained the same. Each civil servant Scrabble bag contains just one X and an Z tile — each worth 10 points — two tiles with four points each for F, H, V, W, and Yes, etc.

Learn more fascinating Scrabble facts — including the story of a world championship “strip search incident” — here.

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