Welcome to the 4th issue of Word Buff Stuff!, an e-Zine providing word gamers and logophiles with a regular injection of puzzles, tips, and chit-chat from the world of words and word games.

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as well as a brief rundown about this newsletter and what you get access to as a subscriber.

If you're a regular, you might like to know that there's a whole lot more in the Members Area for you now (including puzzles, videos, and freebies). And that's also the place where other members will be discussing the puzzles and topics for this issue...

Cool Word Watch

A recent article in TheSun.co.uk gave me a good chuckle...

The story involved Jack Sedgewick, a great grandfather and keen word buff, who got a nasty surprise when he sought the assistance of Yahoo to solve a crossword puzzle clue that had stumped him.

The answer to the clue, as you've probably guessed from the title, turned out to be ONAGER. And, yes, that's a picture of the Equus hemionus onager just above. The regular crossword solver might recognize this creature as a bit of routine crosswordese, while the Scrabble aficionado might recognize it as the handy anagram of ORANGE.

But what was the nasty surprise?

Well, the exact clue for this word was [Wild Asian ass]. When Jack typed that clue into the search engine he got bombarded with porn sites with titles like: Wildest Asian Ass Ever!

Word Buff's Corner

What is the 'Official' Scrabble Dictionary?

It's often the first question people ask me when they find out I'm seriously into Scrabble. Unfortunately, this simple question does not have a simple answer...

The main reason for this is that Scrabble has two owners, each with its own area of jurisdiction, and hence its own rules, budgets, agendas, and yes, dictionaries.

NOTE — Some of the official Scrabble references are not 'dictionaries', strictly speaking. Rather they are lists of valid words without definitions. Let's not split hairs here. Sometimes I'll say 'dictionary', other times I'll say 'word reference', 'lexicon', and so on.

Specifically, Scrabble is owned by Hasbro in North America, and by Mattel throughout the rest of the world. To further complicate things, Hasbro distinguishes 'Family and School' Scrabble from 'Tournament and Club' Scrabble - I'm going to ignore this last distinction by just focusing on the official 'tournament scene', since that's the main scope of this website.

NOTE — Well, ok, I won't ignore it. I'll tuck it away in this note instead. The official North American Scrabble dictionary for school/leisure/family play is the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (4th Ed.). Why a separate dictionary for this audience? Basically, they've removed all the naughty words.

Actually, rather than refer to Mattel and Hasbro, it is more convenient to refer to the organizations charged with overseeing an 'Official' Scrabble dictionary on their behalves. These organizations are the Word English Scrabble Players Association (WESPA) and the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA), respectively.

To keep this article brief, I'm going to omit all the history (which is surprisingly interesting and controversial for such an innocuous topic!) and just summarize what you need to know in order to choose the right word reference for your next game of Scrabble.

Another thing I'm going to do to keep this article brief, is to stop explaining how I'm going to keep this article brief.

World English Scrabble Players Association (WESPA)

WESPA appoints the dictionary publisher Collins to work with Scrabble players to publish an official Scrabble word reference usually referred to as Collins Scrabble Words (CSW). The intention is for this list to provide an official 'World English' Scrabble dictionary, being valid for all Scrabble tournaments played in the English language. They've made a lot of progress, but the big stumbling block is that NASPA doesn't want it.

NOTE — Scrabble players await the next (second) edition of CSW with bated breath. You see, the production of the first edition was generally considered to be an embarrassment to lexicography. This was most unfortunate, as it has further contributed to NASPA's reluctance to adopt WESPA's Scrabble dictionary as its own word reference. I understand that the second edition is being prepared with greater care than the first, which many would say shouldn't be too difficult.

Players often refer generically to the official 'World English' Scrabble dictionary as SOWPODS, regardless of the particular publisher or edition. This unusual name comes from an anagram of the acronyms of its original component dictionaries, being OSW (used in Great Britain) and OSPD (used in North America). But let's not get distracted with that right now...

The long and short of it is, when somebody asks you to play to SOWPODS, they want to use the official 'World English' Scrabble dictionary, which currently happens to be CSW.

North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA)

The official word reference for Scrabble games endorsed by NASPA is called the Official Tournament and Club Word List (OTCWL). Just to confuse things, a curious human affinity for TLAs has resulted in this acronym being further abbreviated - sometimes to OWL, and other times to TWL. So please memorize the following equation...


Unlike CSW, which is too young to have a pedigree, OTCWL exists in two editions. The one you need to worry about is the second edition, which is the latest version. Unfortunately, you will not only see different acronyms for this word list, but you will sometimes see the version represented by the publication year instead of the edition number. Thus, TWL2 refers to the same list as TWL06, since the second edition of this list was published in 2006. Similary, you'll often see this list referred to as OWL2.

A further unfortunance (please cite 'Word Buff Stuff #4' if you use this word in future) is that OTCWL, unlike CSW, does not contain all possible words up to fifteen letters long (that's the number of letters spanning a traditional Scrabble board). It contains, roughly, all valid words of nine letters or less, as well as their inflections. To cater for Nigel Richards, there is another official tome called the Long Words List, denoted LL by some, and LWL by others.

If you've ever used the Scrabble helper Zyzzyva, you may have noticed that one of the lexicons it offers you is 'OWL2 + LWL'. You can now see that this lexicon entails every single word currently allowed in North American Scrabble tournaments.

NOTE — It seems odd to me that the NSA, NASPA's predecessor, didn't formalize the collective lexicon 'OWL2 + LWL', but I understand that their dictionary committee is looking into that at the moment. I guess it must involve more than just making up a name.

Will It Ever Get Simple?

Probably not.

In 2009, NASPA joined WESPA. This led many, myself included, to anticipate a final union of official Scrabble dictionaries, thereby enabling me to remove the scare quotes from the name 'World English' Scrabble dictionary. Alas, it was not to be. You see, when a Scrabble organization joins WESPA, they are not obliged to accept WESPA's preferred Scrabble dictionary. They are merely expressing support for the existence of an organized world Scrabble scene, and in particular for events like the World Scrabble Championship.

Hence the following statement appears on NASPA's official website...

"NASPA has no plans, right now or in the foreseeable future, to adopt Collins." — NASPA, October 8, 2009

Notice that their adoption plans do not exclude SOWPODS as such, but rather Collins, although it's fair to say that I could be being a bit cynical there...

NOTE — Although NASPA joining WESPA while playing to a non-WESPA dictionary is a tad inconsistent, the situation is at least symmetrical. You see, NASPA actually sanctions some tournaments played to WESPA's dictionary.

But let's end with something non-confusing. Namely, the 'World English' Scrabble dictionary (aka CSW) subsumes the North American dictionary lexically, just as the 'World' subsumes 'North America' geographically! I suspect, however, that this sensible state of affairs is a temporary coincidence.

So, if before reading this article you were confused about the meaning of the phrase 'Official Scrabble Dictionary', I hope I've reassured you that it is not your fault.

From the Editor's Couch

Well, it's been months since I last dropped you a line, so I don't want to hold this e-Zine up for much longer. Here are just a few quick editorial things that come to mind right now...

  • What is Word Buff Stuff! exactly? That's a question I've been asking myself a lot lately. You see, originally it was just going to be an occasional newsletter I send out to subscribers with puzzles and interesting anecdotes. But I've come to prefer to think of it as the Members Area - a place with puzzles, game resources, stories and anecdotes, and somewhere word buffs can interact a little too. So that's my current take. You can think of the newsletter as the hors d'oeuvre.

  • And speaking of the newsletter, you may have noticed that I always avoid telling you the frequency of said missive. That's because I'm so busy on my site at the moment that I just don't have time to make a commitment to a monthly (or, shame on me, even quarterly!) e-zine. I hope that will change in the new year when my site is more complete, but in the meantime let's just agree to call it 'occasional'. When I have something I think will interest you, and I also have the time to write it up, you'll be hearing from me. In the meantime, hey, at least I can't be accused of spamming you ;-)

  • One of the things that fascinates me most about word games (the serious variety, that is) is the vast amount of memory they require. Top game players and puzzle solvers have squillions of words and facts squeezed into their brain cells, and I'm intrigued by the techniques they use to get them there. I'm currently working on an interview with a memory games champion, after spending most of October devouring his memory training program and working out ways to apply his clever ideas to word games. The other day, I finally got around to posting my review of his memory system here.

  • Since the last newsletter, I was asked to do an interview with Cornelia Guest who edits a North American Scrabble magazine called The Last Word - a publication for serious Scrabble aficionados. There's a bit more in that interview than I put on my About Me page here at Word Buff, so if you're interested in having a sticky beak, you can find that interview in here.

  • I've spent quite a bit of time over the last week or two overhauling the look and feel of Word Buff. Previously, Word Buff consisted of two columns - a navigation bar on the left, and content on the right. But it's become too difficult for me to squeeze everything into this format, so I've decided to move to a three-column layout. It won't affect you much, but I just thought I'd let you know so you can keep an eye out for any new and interesting stuff I throw up there on the right hand side of every page.
Well, as always, I could go on and on and on about my plans but then I'd never get this message out to you! So, until next time...

Arrivederci from

P.S. Don't forget, you don't have to wait for my newsletter to find out what's been happening at Word Buff. Just check out My Word Games Blog, which you can always access from the What's New? button on the main navigation bar. I usually put any significant updates there.

About Word Buff Stuff!

Word Buff Stuff! is a free e-Zine you subscribed to from Word-Buff.com, a site dedicated to lovers of words and word games. The aim of this newsletter is to provide you with a regular fix of interesting words, fun puzzles, tips and chit-chat from the world of word games.

As a subscriber, you're going to have access to quite a bit of cool stuff from Word Buff's Members-Only Area. To access it, though, you'll need to remember this password...

Make sure you type it in lower-case and include the hyphen! If you're a true word buff, I'm sure it won't take you too long to work out an easy way to remember it ;-)

Now, here's what you'll get with each issue. Just click the links to cut to the chase...

Word Puzzles

These are all located in the Members-Only Area, where you can solve the puzzles online and/or print them out and solve them offline at your leisure...

Crossword Diamond — A quickish, but still challenging, Word Buff style crossword puzzle. Basically, that means American style, but without all the pop-culture trivia. So you don't need to know the name of President Nixon's dog. Why? Because Word Buff is about Words!

Scrabble Word Finder — A Scrabble puzzle that will hone your anagramming skills and improve your Scrabble scores. I'll present you with a Scrabble position and, using the board and rack provided, your job is to find the highest-scoring play possible.

Wordsearch Spelling Bee — A challenging wordsearch puzzle, made up of tough spelling-bee words, that will put your vocabulary and spelling skills to the test. Yes, even if you're a grown-up!

Cool Word Watch

This is a short piece about an interesting word that's crossed my path while researching word games and puzzles.

Word Buff's Corner

This is my favorite part of the newsletter. It's basically a short piece about things like...

  • How to master word games and puzzles
  • Cool words every word gamer should know
  • Neat word games, tools, or books I've stumbled across lately
  • Exciting events coming up on the word games calendar

Or... anything else that tickles my fancy on the day, really ;-)

Quick Flick

A short video containing an interview, a tutorial, or just an entertaining episode from the world of words, puzzles, and games. You can view this one in the Members Area.

From the Editor's Couch

This is a kind of 'behind-the-scenes' chat, where I give you a quick update about my Word Buff website, this newsletter, and anything else I think you might like to know about my plans for this obsessive little hobby of mine.

If you have any problems or suggestions at all, please contact me directly. I'll get onto it as soon as I receive your email!

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