Scrabble at 70

Scrabble, the internationally popular board game, is 70 years old this week. In its three score and ten, Scrabble has brought friends and families together and, more often than not, driven them apart.

It was devised by American architect Alfred Mosher Butts of Poughkeepsie, New York, who worked on it during a period of unemployment after he was made redundant by his firm Holden, McLaughlin & Associates in 1931 when the Great Depression took hold.

Butts, then living in Jackson Heights, New York City, realized that all well-established family board games were either number games such as dice and bingo, strategy games like chess or word games and sought to combine the three.

Elaborating on an earlier version he had trialed known as “Lexiko”, Butts carried out a frequency analysis of letters by tabulating which words recurred most frequently in The New York Times, The New York Herald Tribune and The Saturday Evening Post, enabling him to determine the right value to assign to each letter of the alphabet according to rarity.

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