The Richmond Register

March 3, 2013

Ruzzle me up some competition

By Marie Mitchell
Register Columnist

RICHMOND — To. Tot. Tote. Totes. Yes! I’ve scored 400 points already and I’m still in the game. Going strong.

As. Ask. Asp. Gasp. I’m on fire. Wait. I can even spell “f-i-r-e!”

Only 30-seconds left. Let’s see if I can break 500. That would be an all-time high for me.

What words haven’t I already tried? Sit. Site. Sito. I just guessed at that last one. But I got points for it. Go figure.

Time’s up. Final score: 494. So close to that magical 500 goal. Not to worry. This gives me something to shoot for next time.

In fact, I might start another round of “Ruzzle” in just a few minutes. The kids introduced me to this online word game a few weeks ago. I love it. It’s an electronic Boggle. You start with 16 letters, presented in four rows of four, and create words by connecting letters that touch. You have two minutes to make as many words as you can.

Ruby’s a whiz at it. She’s surpassed the 1,000 mark. Several times. So it’s no fluke. Her trick? She’s incredibly smart. And a little bit lucky. She streaks her fingers wildly across the letters, hoping to find a combination that works. It’s a decent system. Considering her scores. Compared to mine. But it’s movement of tornadic proportions, which makes me dizzy when I watch her.

Marlowe, Ingrid and I are more the slow, but steady, type of players. My method: I seek specific words. Look for patterns. Take my time. Not really a good idea when the clock is ticking.

The kids think I’m becoming addicted to “Ruzzle.” Not true. I can stop anytime I want. But why would I? It’s fun—and improves my mental health. Studies show the more you exercise your brain, the less likely you are to develop diseases like Alzheimer’s.

I’ve searched for a mental workout like this before. But I’m terrible at crossword puzzles. I’m not a Sudoku fan. And I quickly tire of brainteasers. “Ruzzle” is more my style.

The problem is, I need an opponent. I can’t play alone or against the computer unless I spring for a $2.99 package. Which I don’t want to do when I can play for free.

The kids can “friend” me on their various electronic devices. They did—at first. But they’ve stopped. And refuse my invitations to play. Talk about bad sportspersonship.

They accuse me of being insatiable. And offer some lame excuse about having math problems to work for school. Or research papers to write. Or books to read.

Fortunately there’s a feature that allows the iPad to match me with a random opponent. I have no idea who they are. Or where they live. The only clue I have is the catchy phrases they use to identify themselves. I don’t want to reveal specific names but they’d be along the lines of “chocoholicmama,” or “leanmeanmary” or “susieandbobcat.” I win some. I lose some. I think a few of my opponents cheat. Let me explain my suspicions.

“Ruzzle” consists of three rounds. You get points for the words you create and the length of them. Then the score from all three is tallied to see who is the overall winner. Chocoholic scored 220 the first round, 451 the second and 839 the third. I suspect someone else completed the last round for her unless she miraculously caught on to tricks of the game in about 30-seconds’ time.

I’ll admit it’s somewhat humbling when the score is posted. I’m feeling pretty virtuous while negotiating the playing board, racking up points nonstop. Then I check the score. I only got 28 of 296 possible words. Really?

I overlooked words like: fices, fas, sice, ae, els. Those are words? I guess I need to increase my vocabulary. Spend time with the dictionary. Bulk up on terminology.

To my credit, I’m seldom in an isolated booth, focusing exclusively on the game for a solid two minutes. Even though I’ve been accessible to my family an entire day, they always choose those two minutes to bombard me with questions. About missing items. Unwashed clothes. Food that needs prepared. Things that can wait.

I’ll get to those things—eventually. Once I’ve had my daily dose of “Ruzzle.” I may not set any records. But I do enjoy playing the game. It makes me h-a-p-p-y.