Word on the Street

Take all your consonants except for the ridiculous ones like Q, X and Z. Put them on your satisfyingly hefty bakelite tiles. Now, make a long game board, like a 4-lane highway with a divider strip just wide enough and long enough to accommodate all of your happily hefty letter tiles. Next, get together a deck of 216, often surprisingly laugh-provoking, double-sided category cards, like: “The Brand of Clothing Worn by One of the Players,” and “Something that is Wasted,” and “Something Used by Scuba Divers,” and “A Word that Describes a Car Crash,” “A Title Used for Males but not for Females.” Add a cardholder and sand timer. And those are all the ingredients needed for a new and notably Major FUN word game called “Word on the Street” from those frequently Major FUN game publishers, Out of the Box.

Everything, of course, except for the rules. And there in lies the tickle.

Designed by Jack Degnan to give a couple or a couple of teams of word-lovers ample opportunity to demonstrate their brilliance and/or befudlement, the game is a contest to see who, in 30 seconds, can think of a word that 1) fits the category, and 2) has as many as possible of the letters still in play, many of which are doubled – as in MISSISSIPPI which would allow us to move the M one lane closer to us, the P two lanes closer, and the S clear off the board, which would put us one letter ahead. Only 7 more to go and we win!

Though Mississippi would in deed be a coup, it would not be considered a valid response to the category “A Brand of Clothing Worn by One of the Players.” To which the best I could do at this time is probably MAIDENFORM (getting to move M twice as well as a D, N, F and R once). Or would MASSIMO with its two M’s and two S’s be better?

As the game progresses, different letters, and hence different words become more desirable, offensively or defensively, so the challenge keeps on changing. The best word might not have the most double letters in it if some letters only one space away from us, or more enticing yet, one space away from the opponent’s goal. The 30-second timer keeps the game moving apace. The cards keep the game surprising and funny. The tiles are large enough for all to read. The board works perfectly in directing player’s attention to the strategically most valuable letters. All this makes the game absorbing and delightfully tense, from the moment the first card is read until one team finally manages to capture the eighth letter.

Recommended for 2 to 12 players old enough to appreciate each other’s verbal mastery.

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