If you’ve never played Team Speed Scrabble, it’s a lot like sex…

Two stressed-out people fumble through a lot of quick and sloppy moves while yelling at each other – then it ends abruptly 12 minutes later.

Of course, I might be having the wrong kind of sex.

But I’m an expert at Speed Team Scrabble. Mostly because I invented it. And it debuted this weekend at a wine bar in sunny South Florida, at an event called Fuck Words With Friends. Looked like this…

I want more journalists to play this board game, because I believe it’s good for their skills, their careers, and their very souls. And I’m not beneath bribery to make it happen.

If you’re intrigued, let’s first review the rules…


The basic rules

1. Each team consists of two people, who crowd around one tray. Thus, it’s best if they already know each other, or at least have no phobias about their personal space.

2. They have 30 seconds to lay down a word. If the last tile isn’t on the board at the count of 30, they lose the turn.

3. No cell phones allowed. (Which is one big reason this event is called Fuck Words With Friends. Here are the others.)

4. A referee keeps time and score. His word is final, even if he’s wrong. (Just pretend he’s your editor.)

5. Regular Scrabble “challenge” rules apply. That is, if you lay down a word that the other team insists isn’t, the ref looks it up in an old-fashioned dictionary. If you’re wrong, your team loses a turn. But if the challengers are wrong, they lose a turn.


Those were the rules SPJ South Florida agreed to when it decided to host the inaugural FWWF on Saturday afternoon. I had other rules the chapter ignored, which pissed me off. But since they paid for the pizza and craft beer, I surrendered on these…


The hardcore rules

6. When you lay down a double word score, you must chug a beer.

7. When you lay down a triple word score, you must down a shot.

8. If you use all seven of your tiles in a single move, you must take a hit of crystal meth.

8. If you lose a challenge, we break your little finger, and you play through the pain. While this will make challenges much less common, they’ll be quite dramatic when they do occur.

scrabble3

Why this is good for you

Words With Friends teaches you nothing but the URLs of websites that will organize your letters for you. Speed Team Scrabble teaches journalists three key skills…

1. Tight writing – Because you need to move fast, you tend to play lots of short, punchy words – the same kind you should use when you’re writing. There’s no time for zoea and oribi and those other bullshit words you can leisurely look up while playing Words With Friends. (If you must know: The former is crab larvae, the latter is a small African antelope.)

2. Deadlines – I watched 20 pro and student journalists freak out on Saturday as I counted down the last five seconds of their moves. (I was a ref – I’m not crazy enough to play this stupid game.) Seriously, their hands were shaking. Anytime that happens without drugs or a car accident, it’s a good thing.

3. Alphabetizing – When was the last time you had to look something up in a paperback dictionary? It’s been a few years for me, and I literally forgot the order of the alphabet at times.

Pay to play

If you want to play Team Speed Scrabble – either basic or hardcore – I’d suggest doing what we did…

Find a bar willing to offer drink specials because it’s the middle of the day, order in cheap pizza, and offer some kind of prize to the winning team. (We gave a pair of Amazon gift certificates.)

Depending on how many people want to play, you’ll need at least a couple of Scrabble boards. We used four and then had a playoff to determine the winner – which was easy, since each game takes literally a few minutes.

To help defray your costs, I’ll reimburse up to $100 of expenses to the first three FWWF tournaments I hear about. I’ll need photographic evidence of the event, and I’ll want quotes from you suitable for publication here (which means you can be as profane as you want, since I don’t give a shit).

If you play the hardcore version, I’ll reimburse you up to $200. And I’ll supply the finger splints and meth pipes.

Questions? Rules of your own to propose? Email me.