Proposal To Change Scrabble Tiles' Value Would Knock 'Z' Down A Peg

Researcher Joshua Lewis is proposing a new value system to some letters in Scrabble. Audie Cornish and Robert Siegel have more.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Finally this hour, a note on the value of a letter.

In the game of Scrabble, the letter Z is worth 10 points. The letter X is worth eight and the letter V is worth four. That is, unless you're playing with Joshua Lewis.

JOSHUA LEWIS: Z goes from 10 to six, and X goes from eight to five. And then a letter like V, which is actually quite difficult to play, goes up from four to five.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

That's Lewis, a post-doctoral scholar at the University of California, San Diego's Cognitive Science Department.

As a side project, Lewis recently created a system that would assign new values to 14 Scrabble letters based on the ease and the frequency with which they appear in the list of official Scrabble words.

LEWIS: And I was interested in this because as an enthusiastic amateur player, I thought, you know, since the corpus of legal words has changed in Scrabble, maybe the tile values should change as well.

CORNISH: Well, we ran this by our resident Scrabble expert Stefan Fatsis, who appears on this program frequently talking about sports. He's also the author of "Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players." He says a new value system is fun to think about.

STEFAN FATSIS, BYLINE: But ultimately, what you'd be doing is you'd be making the game more boring. It would be less fun to play because it would flatten out the values. And the great thing about a game like Scrabble is that there is this element of luck and there's this element of strategy. And part of the strategy is understanding how the letters are valued and what you should do with them.

SIEGEL: And in response to this idea, Scrabble's manufacturer says it knows exactly what to do with the values of its tiles: not change a thing.

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