On Sunday morning, a strange word suddenly started trending for me on Twitter. The word was Ruzzle. I had no idea what it meant, so I did the smart thing and asked my dog.
"Mikey, what's a Ruzzle?"
Through nonverbal communication, he indicated that it might have something to do with his groin. Though, to be fair, he'd been indicating this for the better part of an hour. And with varying degrees of intensity.
So, just to be sure, I Googled this strange new word and discovered that Ruzzle was actually a popular game app for your mobile device. And for some reason -- I still have no idea why -- at 10 a.m. on Sunday, lots of people were tweeting about it.
Thus, I had to learn more. But not really. I don't generally care on Sundays. Or wear pants.
Nevertheless, a little half-hearted research revealed that this uber-popular word game seemed to be the offspring of a wild and kinky one-night-stand between Boggle and Scrabble. Apparently, things got a little crazy at the bar, there was a shared cab ride and, lo and behold, we now have Ruzzle.
The underlying message: Be careful with tequila, kids.
After downloading the app and opening a game account (for which I was denied the user name "RealGilbertGottfried") I soon learned that Ruzzle consists of three two-minute rounds in which you and your opponent each get 16 letters placed in four rows of four that can be linked together to create words by gliding your finger over the screen at any connecting angle. Like Boggle.
Each letter is also given a point value based on difficulty, and some even award extra points by doubling or tripling the letter or overall word score. Like Scrabble.
In the end, the player with the most points after three rounds is the one who doesn't get shingles.
Obviously, it's a game of high stakes.
"Hi, boss. Yeah, it's Hank. I won't be in this week. What's that? Yes. Ruzzle. Again."
OK, so the player with the most points actually just wins. However, if you're competitive like me, losing is just as bad as a blistering skin rash. Which is why playing my mom was a horrible idea. She always wins. At everything.
But I'm a glutton for punishment and told her to sign up so she could give me something to write about and, perhaps, humiliate me in the process. Which she promptly did on her first attempt: 859-805. The ensuing e-mail conversation went like this:
Mom: "Good game."
Me: "I've got your good game RIGHT HERE!"
Mom: "Oh, my, that doesn't sound nice ..."
I'm a particularly sore loser. And she's gone on to destroy me three more times.
"I just want you to play as well as you can, dear."
Constantly getting beat by your mom. Man, what a drag.
Since then, I've at least found a way to defeat two random strangers whom I've played against, and this has temporarily restored my limited sense of self-worth. Fortunately, there are plenty more strangers to go around.
And "plenty" is a bit of an understatement.
The maker of the game, Stockholm-based MAG Interactive, boasts that it now has more than 9 million players in over 100 countries. It's also available in 10 languages. I'm currently utilizing the English version of the game because, after 34 years, I've somehow managed to grasp it at a solid third-grade level.
Much like one Twittererer who oh-so-intelligently chimed in on Sunday morning with "...pop a book open. Then you'll stop loosing [sic] in Ruzzle."
Sage advice. For him.