Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

I have always been word-crazy, and I have never hesitated to try my hand at a word game.

In Ruzzle, I found myself up against a formidable wall and HEY! I’ve found a blog post topic too.

My Ruzzle career started with this blog post about strategy games. When I commented that I would never start Words With Friends because I would never get anything done, I was invited to play Ruzzle and told, “It only takes two minutes a turn.”

While it is true that a Ruzzle game only takes two minutes, this has turned out to be the Lay’s Potato Chip “you can’t eat just one” equivalent of my online life. Also, I hate losing!

By way of introduction, Ruzzle calls itself “the world’s fastest word game.” The premise is simple: players swipe through the 16 letters on the board, trying to accumulate as many words as possible. Each match is a series of three two-minute games.

That said, here are my takeaways from Ruzzle:

I Am Incapable Of Doing the Minimum Once I Like Something

Two minutes? I really have to regulate myself. I only allow myself to play one game a day per person (I usually have two or three opponents going simultaneously). And because I like it, I want to get better, so I dig around to learn more. Via the digging, I found the Ruzzle community …

There Are Communities and Tutorials Out there for EVERYTHING

Want tips on how to improve? There’s a strategy guide for that. Desire to “get good at Ruzzle”? Visit this blog. Need tips and tricks? Visit this site. And, apparently avoid the “dreaded rainbow circle clan” of Ruzzle pirates (?).

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Armed with tips and community, I kept on practicing…

Practice Pays Off

My Ruzzle life will never get to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours bar, but I have gotten better since I started playing in December 2014. Sometimes when I find something by thinking backwards, laterally, or diagonally, I feel like Michael Pollan when he “saw” the truffles he had been overlooking despite them being right under his nose in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Speaking of thinking backwards, laterally, and diagonally …

Thinking Backwards, Laterally, and Diagonally Pays Off

This is where the parallel to real life and much of the feedback I have always been given really hits home. When I look at the “possible words” vs the “found words” after a game, I see so many missed opportunities, mostly the ones that involved following a line of letters through a relatively byzantine path.

It reminds me of professional situations where I literally was going down a string of 200 emails, one by one, and not categorizing or prioritizing. It happened recently when a coworker had moved something I needed to do under my page on Basecamp, and I asked about it publicly in our staff FB page, before realizing it was there, if I had searched differently.

Strategy: it pays off. Eventually. Let’s hope.

In the meantime, I have also learned …

Accuracy is Overrated

When I first started playing Ruzzle, I would be mortified at a low accuracy percentage. I have learned that in Ruzzle (but not life in general!), there are more important qualities than accuracy, such as furiously (and intelligently) swiping at combinations you *think* may be words, and latching on to a multi-purpose endings such as “ing” and trying every combo out there, even the ones that aren’t really words. As someone who proofreads on the side, this de-emphasis on accuracy is a lesson wrapped within a challenge.

Paying Extra for Premium Can Be Worth It

There are many apps for which I don’t find it worth paying the buck or two extra for the premium version. I’ll look at the five-second ads, deal with a few limitations. But the perks for Premium Ruzzle are pretty cool, especially if you are obsessed with improving. With Ruzzle, paying the $2.99 for premium gets you unlimited ongoing games, statistics, and the possibility to see all words on the board after a finished round (that’s my favorite part!).

Riveting RUZZLE Realities


Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Yes, I am embarrassed that I am a North Florida born and bred woman and missed “cooter” (the turtle …everyone else needs to think clean).

Determination Alone Does Not Help You Achieve Some of Your Goals

Ruzzle has “achievements” you can unlock. Well, being the goal-driven person I am (see topic #1 about the two-minute issue), I want to Achieve ALL the Achievements!!!!!!!!

The thing is, you can say to yourself “I am going to achieve the ‘Speedster’ badge this game” but you can’t make yourself find 30 words in 30 seconds or (the one I really want) “find a word of at least 10 letters” (the Bookworm badge). At least I am 100% on “Challenge your Twitter followers”!

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

The elusive bookworm badge. Sigh.


One of the tutorials recommended “always keep the sound on” because it helps you know when you’re close to the end of the game (among other reasons). I found I play better with the sound off. (It’s also easier to furtively play Ruzzle, for example, next to a sleeping spouse or in an airport.)


I have played Ruzzle in Spanish a few times. I can see why this might be helpful to my Spanish learning efforts. Unfortunately, I left the setting on “Spanish” when I started to play a tournament once and that resulted, understandingly, in a major Ruzzle fail!

Tap Dance

Every time I sit there staring at the Ruzzle screen, realizing it expects me to “tap” for the next step (even though it does not TELL me to “tap” for the next step), I am reminded that the app / digital world expects me to know what to do. Maybe my children have some intuitive “tap to make the next thing on the screen happen” reflex, but I still expect directions. That’s probably not going to happen, is it?

Tick Tock My Two Minutes Are Almost Up

Why am I attached to Ruzzle? I would say 1) words! 2) connecting with people, especially the first friend who asked, and 3) the thrill of competition.

And seeing as how despite the thrill of competition, I am have lost 62% more games than I have won, I will be playing …

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

This post about “riveting Ruzzle realities” was a response to the Mama’s Losin’ It writing prompt: “Write a blog post that ends with the word: again.”

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Books Are The Best Alchemists (World Book Night 2014)

I never held a copy of The Botany of Desire in my hands until I received my 20 World Book Night 2014 copies from our Barnes and Noble here in Tallahassee.

WBN box

I never held a copy in my hands because I listened to the audiobook via my iPod twice (once several years ago and once when I learned I would be giving the book on World Book Night) rather than reading hard copy.

did read one of Michael Pollan’s other books, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” in the hard copy version. It was a book club selection at my book club and it rocketed into my top ten list of “books that make a distinct impact on how I lead my life.” My fondness for The Omnivore’s Dilemma is what led me to make The Botany of Desire one of my three choices for World Book Night 2014.

One of the highest hurdles I faced as I planned this year’s World Book Night “giving” was my own expectations. Last year’s experience had been such an emotional pinnacle for me. (Last year, I gave The Language of Flowers to a group of women at Gadsden Correctional Institution.) I went into last year’s “giver night” so prepared, with a three-page presentation, a “project” we would work on together over the course of the evening that resulted in a keepsake, and with the knowledge that my recipients would send in evaluations because they would be strongly encouraged to. The only downside of last year was my discovery that women prisoners are rarely “low readers.” With a lot of time on their hands, they are often voracious readers. But I still put last year’s experience firmly in the “success” column and assume the WBN administration forgave my poor call on identifying “low readers.”

Once I learned that I would be giving The Botany of Desire this year, I shifted my approach. I contacted New Leaf Market, a locally-owned food cooperative, and asked about a possible partnership. Fortuitously, on the evening of WBN, New Leaf had a reading/book signing scheduled with Dixie Ann Black. The New Leaf administrators invited me to be at the coop prior to her book signing, and to give away copies of The Botany of Desire.

Still feeling very much like I was “doing this on the fly” as compared to last year, I prepared a “book giver” button, printed out a table tent, and printed out bookmarks to include with each book I gave away.

WBN table

The Abraham Lincoln quote reads, “The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.”

I arrived at New Leaf at 6 p.m. as requested, and the staff set me up at a table right by the exit. When I made eye contact with a customer leaving the store, I grabbed a copy of the book, extended it in their direction, and said, “Would you like a copy of The Botany of Desire?” Reactions varied:

For free?

Just because?

I’ve been wanting to read this!

I’ve already read it (these people declined a copy)


No thanks …

I felt there was special value in a few moments of the giver experience:

The New Leaf employees who asked for copies (of course they got copies!)

The little kids who saw their parents receive a gift of reading “just because”

The woman who said she had read it but wanted to pass it along to her daughter

Meeting Dixie Ann who was preparing for her reading, and her comment to me, “I can tell you have a book inside you”

Any person who walked away feeling just a bit lighter about the world, and the generosity of strangers.

Having shared with you some specifics about how the night went (all the books were gone in half an hour), I will take a hopeful guess about how this particular book, on this specific night, may live on in the recipients:

One principle I took away from The Botany of Desire both times I read it is that we far too easily dismiss nature’s wisdom in spreading biodiversity — in the bee who pollinates a flower with the pollen of a completely different, unrelated genus of flower. It may create something beautiful; it may create a disaster, but it is guaranteed to create something humankind couldn’t manipulate into existence at all.

Maybe it’s the same with these books. Although I have been kicking myself a bit about a second year where I may not have targeted sufficiently “low” readers, how do I know that assumption is correct? Even if they aren’t “low” readers, maybe they are readers who only read fiction, or only read current events, or are in such a rush through life that they get their news from the crawler across their tv screen or fragments of talk radio. Maybe this book will teach them, edify them, encourage them.

Apples, Tulips, Cannabis, Potatoes. Although The Botany of Desire is “about” these four plants, it delves into so much more. History (apples were mostly used for cider until prohibition, after which a move was on to make them a “healthy” choice). Economics (the “tulipomania” of the 17th century, when a futures market existed for tulips, whose value had grown wildly and disproportionately stratospheric). Morality (why does a person in Amsterdam have an entirely different perspective on use of cannabis than a person in Akron?). Hubris (the Irish dependence on a sole crop which resulted in a famine in 1845; the American corporate push to genetically modify potatoes that fend off bugs and make perfect french fries). 

Will a recipient be more willing to purchase an aesthetically imperfect apple after reading this book? Will a recipient share a homegrown flower out of their garden instead of purchasing a “perfect” specimen at a store? Will a recipient have a more multi-faceted understanding of the opposing views of those engaged in the debate about the legalization of marijuana? Will a recipient do what I did and think twice before downing a fast food french fry?

In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan wrote:

“Plants are nature’s alchemists, expert at transforming water, soil and sunlight into an array of precious substances, many of them beyond the ability of human beings to conceive, much less manufacture.”

Maybe I should cut myself a break this World Book Night, and rest in the knowledge that these 20 books are better alchemists than I could ever be …. that they will do their job beyond my ability to conceive, much less manufacture ….

This a picture I took at Drazen Orchards in Connecticut in 2012.

This a picture I took at Drazen Orchards in Connecticut in 2012.