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Computer Scientists Attracted To Word Game


Computer Scientists Attracted To Word Game

“It surprised me,” says Peter Roizen. According to him, computer scientists like him are especially attracted to a board game he invented.

The game, WildWords, is based on the crossword format of Scrabble(R), but wild tiles marked with an asterisk can represent one or more letters in a series. Thus the play of “JUX*ION” could be the word “JUXTAPOSITION” with the asterisk representing all the letters in the middle of the word.

“Their first response is ’Oh, it’s a regular expression’,” says Roizen. “That’s the tip-off that I am talking to a computer scientist. All I need to say is ’yes’, and they grasp the principle. People from other professions always ask if there is a limit on the number of letters a wild tile can represent.”

To answer that question, Roizen keeps a tray with the play “SUP*OUS” on the table. He shows the play and offers a clue--“Mary Poppins made this word famous.” He claims even children immediately recognize the word as ’SUPERCALIFRAGELISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS’"

In addition to wild tiles, WildWords offers special board squares that convert regular letter tiles into wild tiles. The game also incorporates the bluff. Players are not required to divulge their use of wild tiles unless an opponent risks a challenge and their own turn.

“It’s a bit like poker with cards in the hole,” adds Roizen. “The wild tiles are letter strings in the hole.” Players do not need to know or remember the use of wild tiles in previous plays, but must be able to put forward a legitimate word for their own play if challenged.

“The game offers an incredible number of possible plays,” states Roizen. “I think computer scientists enjoy the opportunity to be very creative.” He feels, “WildWords is to Scrabble(R), like chess is to checkers.”

“It’s amazing how often the email address for a buyer on the Internet is a high-tech company,” he adds. At the other end of the curve, Roizen states that about one in twenty people respond with “that’s too much thinking.”

“Probably retired toll takers,” adds Roizen.

Details of the game are available at


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