Friday, August 12, 2016

A Red Herring?

He sat at the kitchen table, a rotating Scrabble® board in front of him. Close to his right hand was a large SNIFTER of brandy. He put his hand in the bag and drew out seven letters - four O's, a D, an E and and H. What could he do with that?

OD, of course. The theory of life force, as postulated by Baron Carl von Reichenbach. He could always remember the definition of OD, because of that name, Reichenbach. There were the Reichenbach Falls that Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis James Moriarty had fallen into at the end of "The Final Problem."

He could also spell OE, which was supposedly the name that people of the Faroe Islands gave a whirlwind. He'd never been able to find mention of it outside the Dictionary, but that was okay. It was IN the dictionary, so it was acceptable in Scrabble® and that's all that mattered. And he could spell OH.

What else? Well, HOOD, of course, HOD, and DOE. HOD, what a funny name. Some kind of tool for carrying mortar around, apparently.

Well, that was no good. He kept one of the O's and tossed the rest back in the bag, then drew out an I, an M and an N. Not much better. Now he could spell OI, a Britishism for catching someone's attention,  OM, a word used by people trying to meditate, and ON.

Back in the bag they went, and he drew out a P, an R and an S. OP, short for pop art, or an operation, OR, and OS. OS referred to the  bones, he knew He smiled, and tossed the tiles back in the bag and drew out three more. What were the odds?

Yep - he had drawn a W, for OW, an X for OX, and a Y for OY. Another spelling of that Britishism, OI. He took a sip of brandy and tossed all the letters back in the bag, shook the bag vigorously, and then drew out seven more letters. An M, a U, an R, a D, an E. and an R.

He stopped there, gazing at the tiles that he had tossed, one by one as he drew them, onto the board. The tiles spelled MURDER! He couldn't help but laugh again.  How appropriate!

A Mystery Ship

"Ladies and gentlemen," said Kent Allard to the group of reporters, "this is the Kilmorden Castle." As he spoke, he raised his hand to gesture behind him at the gleaming white cruise ship.

Allard and the reporters were standing on pier 12 of Honolulu's Aloha Tower. It was here that all of the cruise ships that plied between Hawaii and San Francisco were docked.

Allard was president and CEO of the brand new cruise line, Aloha Themed Cruises, and the Kilmorden Castle was the company's brand-new flagship, having been acquired from one of the larger cruise lines which was upgrading its fleet with the largest ships in the world. A handful of start-up cruiselines were taking advantage of this divestiture.

"Her maiden voyage is six months from now," Allard continued. "The theme, a 1930s Hawaiian mystery cruise. For two weeks our guests will leave the 21st century behind."

"What, no internet?" one of the reporters asked. "That's not going to go over well."

Allard smiled. "Our cruises are for adults only. Wedding parties, honeymooners, people celebrating anniversaries, history buffs. I'm sure they won't miss today's modern technology at all. Except for the modern electronics on the ship's bridge and the powerful engines, the ship will be for all intents and purposes sailing back in time."

The reporter shook his head doubtfully.

Another reporter raised a hand. "What about the food?" she asked

"The food will be delicious but also historical. 1930s recipes, from the actual menus served on board those famous cruise ships of yore, such as the Matson Line."

The reporters nodded and wrote in their notebooks. That sounded interesting.

"In addition to the role-playing mystery," said Allard, "the Kilmorden Castle will also host a bridge tournament and a Scrabble® tournament."

"Scrabble®?" said yet another reporter. "I can understand bridge. Mystery novels of the 1930s were full of bridge players. But Scrabble®?"

Allard smiled. "My wife and I love Scrabble®. And since I'm the CEO and she's the CFO, Scrabble® tournaments are going to be a regular feature of our cruises."

Allard turned to look up at the gleaming white ship.

"Let's go on board," he said. "All of the cabins are being refurbished in 1930s style, as are the lounges, the swimming pools, the restaurants. We'll visit one of the cabins that has been completed, and then we'll have dinner in the First Class Dining Room. Some of our staff are on board and in costume, so you'll have plenty of good photo opportunities."

The reporters followed the tall, white linen suit-clad Allard up the gangplank and onto the ship, unlimbering their cameras.

That Sunday, the travel sections of most major newspapers around the world devoted at least a couple of lines to the news of the forming of the new cruise line, Aloha Themed Cruises. Several of the papers devoted a whole page to the news, with photos of men and women in 1930s-era vintage clothing, posing "in character" for the cameras.

And each article ended with the following news:

"Six lucky couples have a chance to win all-expense paid tickets on the inaugural cruise of the Kilmorden Castle. Aloha Themed Cruises is sponsoring a bridge tournament and a Scrabble tournament, one month before the maiden voyage commences. The tournaments will take place at the Carlton Hotel in San Francisco. The top three finishers in each tournament will receive those coveted free tickets to what will surely be the most unique cruise in the history of ocean travel!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Challenge

Clive Prentiss walked into his local library. He was a mystery writer by profession, and intended to set his next novel in Hawaii. Since he'd never been to Hawaii, he needed to do some research..

Between the entrance to the library building and the entrance to the library itself was a FOYER. In one corner of the foyer was a large Community Message Board, where people and organizations could post advertisements for their events.

Clive always made a point of checking that board each time he visited the library, to see if there was some new event in town worth attending.

He strolled over there now. His eyes passed over a variety of announcements.  His PERUSAL came to an end when he saw a large poster with Scrabble® tiles scattered all over it and the following text:

Tri-City Scrabble® Tournament.
$50,000 prize fund to be distributed between top-10 finishers
Tournament dates: August 1 - 7, 2017

Clive's eyes narrowed. August 1... the tournament was a whole year away.

Clive stood in front of the poster, arms folded, COGITATING.

It was true he hadn't played Scrabble for over twenty years - since he was a kid, in fact. But he had a large vocabulary and was an excellent speller.

And he had a year to increase his vocabulary and start playing again.

A couple of hours here and there every week for 52 weeks, and he'd have a good chance of coming in to some easy money next August.

Clive continued into the library, trotted up the stairs to the third floor and found the travel section. He chose several books on Hawaii at random from the shelf, and then, on a whim, stopped by the Information Desk.

"Do you have any books on playing Scrabble®?" he asked the librarian.


The librarian rose and led him UNERRINGLY to a shelf that had a couple of books - Word Freak and Word Nerd.  

Clive's lips quirked. Not very glamorous names for Scrabble® players. Rather PEJORATIVE, in fact. Not the way to get the average games player to seek to learn the game.. a title like Word Birds would have been better...but he was DIGRESSING.  Offering prizes of $50,000 in a local tournament was another excellent way to get people interested in Scrabble®!

"Do you know about our Scrabble® Club?" the librarian asked, watching him as he took the two books and added them to the stack he held in the crook of his arm.

"No, when is that?" Clive asked.

"They meet every Wednesday. Downstairs in the Winter Conference Room. 6 pm."

"Thank you for telling me," Clive said. "Are they the ones sponsoring that $50,000 Scrabble® tournament?"

 "No, I think it's one of the organizations from one of the bigger cities. This group only has about five players. But I'm sure they'd be happy to have you."

"I'll go to their next meeting," Clive assured her. "Thanks again."

As Clive walked back down the steps to the first floor, he thought about the Scrabble® club. Only five members? Was it even worth going to? Well, he would need to play somebody to find out his present skill level compared with other people who played - he may as well stop by.

Clive stopped at the Community Bulletin Board once more. He'd often seen a poster advertising a Scrabble® club, but all it had promised was "fun people" and he'd always had better things to do.

Now that the profit motive was introduced, his interest was PIQUED.

Clive's lips QUIRKED. So, okay, money was his primary motive, but he was  a competitive soul, and as a writer and reader he knew the importance of a strong vocabulary. So this would be a win-win situation.

He'd definitely attend the next week's meeting. After all, probably each member of the club would be attending that $50,000 tournament next year, so this would give him an insight into the competition.

Clive drove home by way of a McDonald's drive through. Once home, he settled in his living room chair with a hot fudge sundae in one hand and Word Freak in the other, and began to read.

Monday, August 1, 2016


If you are a word gamer, then The Tiles Spell Murder! is for you.

This blog consists of two serial fiction stories - one within the other - that are designed to help you improve your word game vocabulary, from Scrabble to Words with Friends to Words with Enemies (the Doctor Who version of the game!) to Boggle.

To do well at any word game that takes place on a board (as opposed to Boggle) the building blocks are the 2- and 3-letter words. Even if the rest of your vocabulary is "normal" - i.e. you don't know all the esoteric words that are never, ever used except in Scrabble - you can still score very well if you know how to build good words by "hooking" them to 2-letter words (thus creating a 3-letter word, as well as the high-pointer you're making.

So please enjoy The Tiles Spell Murder!