|Chuck Woolery (1984-1990, 1993)|
Steve Edwards (1990 Pilot)
|Rod Roddy (1984 Pilot)|
Jay Stewart (1984-1985)
Charlie Tuna (1985-1990, 1993)
|Reg Grundy Productions|
The world's most popular crossword board game turned into a TV game show.
The Crossword game was played with two contestants looking at a computer-generated image of the world-famous Scrabble board. One letter would be given at the start in the center square with the star, then host Chuck would tell the players the number of letters in a word, and then he read a clue to that word. Then the contestant would (usually) take two numbered tiles from a rack between the contestants. The tiles would then be stuck into a slot to reveal two letters. The contestant would then choose which letter to place into the word first to see if it works. A correct letter is placed in its proper position in the word. When placed into the word, the contestant would then either take a guess or place the other letter. If the player still couldn't guess the word, then he or she must then select two more tiles. Play continues until the player decided it was time to take a guess by hitting his/her button (there was no need to hit the button in earlier shows), or if all but one letter appeared. A correct guess won the word, but an incorrect guess passed control to the opponent. Guessing the word wasn't easy because of the fact that there were three extra letters in the rack of tiles that don't fit, called "Stoppers"; when a player selected a Stopper, control also passed to the opponent. Along the way, players might pick letters that fall into colored bonus squares, either blue or pink (no red unlike the board game). Early in the run & in the 90s version, whenever a bonus square was landed on, money was (potentially) added to a pot; for most of the 80s run, landing on a bonus square, and then identifying the correct word won bonus money, which was kept win or lose. If a player landed on a bonus square, and answered incorrectly, the opponent can steal the bonus money by identifying the correct word. The blues were worth $500, and the pinks were worth $1,000. Originally, a chyron graphic flashed the appropriate amount; later Chuck handed contestants the money in regular $100 bills, one at a time; still later, he handed out blue and pink colored bills called "Chuck Bucks", using the appropriate color for that square. Once a word was finished, another word was played, using one letter from the previous word, and the player who was behind or lost the last word in case of a tie got to start. The first player to guess three words won the game.
Whenever three stoppers were picked, (starting in 1985) when the game was at a 2-2 tie, or (in the 2nd format) when time is running out, the game shifted into a Speedword round. After that third stopper, the contestant who control was passed to can either play Speedword or immediately take a guess at the risk of not being able to play Speedword if he/she is wrong. This was where letters in the word started appearing one letter at a time. The first player to buzz-in with the correct word won the word, but buzzing in with a wrong word disqualified that player, allowing the opponent to either guess the word immediately or see more letters. Originally, the bonus squares had nothing to do with Speedword; that rule changed in 1986 when the bonus squares were always available.
The winner of the Crossword round won $500, plus a chance to play Scrabble Sprint.
The sprint round was played with two winners of the Crossword round, and consisted of three words (later four). On each word, host Woolery told the contestant how many letters are in the word, then read the clue. When Chuck said "GO", a clock started, and the contestant was shown two letters at a time. On each pair of letters, the player selected one to place into the word. Originally, a new letter would replace the chosen one; later once a letter was chosen, the other one would go back into a random shuffle. There were no Stoppers at all in this round: every letter is correct. When it was time to take a guess, that player hit a plunger to stop the clock and give his/her answer. A correct answer moved on to the next word, but an incorrect answer caused a ten-second penalty and stayed with that word. Play continued until all but one letter was placed; the contestant can allow five seconds to run safely without penalty by not guessing. Missing any words entirely had the contestant try to guess some make-up/alternate words. The round ended when the player guessed all the words right. The first contestant had to set the time, with the clock counting up; and the second player tried to beat the time, with the clock counting down. The player with the best time won the game & more money. The fastest time for a Scrabble sprint was 11.1 seconds, whereas the slowest was well over 100 seconds, with the board clock resetting to 00.0.
The show went through two formats in its six-year run.
Two new contestants played crossword for the right to face the Scrabble Sprint champion.
In the first two weeks, the contestants played for money in the pot with $25 to start. Each correct letter was worth $25 more to the pot, while the colored squares added more money to the pot; blue squares were worth $50, pink squares were worth $100. The winner of Crossword won all the money in the pot, plus a chance to win triple value in Scrabble Sprint. Later, the pot was dropped in favor of the $500 prize for winning Crossword, with money for bonus squares added in later weeks.
For three months in 1985, contestants not only had to say the correct word, but also had to spell the correct word one letter at a time. Similar to the format used during the first two weeks, each correct letter added money to a pot: Regular squares added $50, blue squares added $100, and pink squares added $200 (later $500). In one episode, two contestants Chris & Von repeatedly failed to spell the word "mosquitos" correctly, despite knowing it was the correct answer. This rule was abandoned by the fall of 1985.
In Scrabble Sprint, the Crossword winner (now dubbed the challenger) had a choice of one of two envelopes containing three words, pink or blue; the Sprint champion got whatever was left. The challenger had to set to time while the champion tried to beat the time. If the Sprint champion got all three of his/her words before the clock hit zero, he/she remains the champ; if not, then the Crossword winner took over as Sprint champion. The winner of the Sprint won $1,500 or triple value of the pot in earlier weeks.
Later, both contestants played the same three words (later four). The champion was isolated offstage out-of-sight & out-of-hearing, while the challenger set the time the champion tried to beat when he/she returned.
If the Sprint champion can win five times in a row, he/she won a bonus of an additional $20,000. Doing it twice or winning ten times won another $20,000 bonus, for a potential grand total of $55,500 (more than that with the early pot format). Later it was changed to having the champ's winnings upped to $20,000 for the first five wins, and upped to $40,000 for ten. Winning ten times also retired the champ from the show, and the next Crossword round was only played for a position as temporary Sprint champion. After the first Crossword round upon a champion retiring undefeated, another Crossword round was played to determine who gets a chance to play Scrabble Sprint against the winner of the previous Crossword Round.
In the second format which debuted in 1986 because of a tournament (The $100,000 All-American Scrabble Tournament) using this format, four contestants (one a returning champion) played the game. Before the show, home viewers who've sent the Opening Home Viewer Word will receive a Scrabble T-Shirt.
Each pair played Crossword for the right to play Scrabble Sprint. The champion played the first Crossword round every day, and his/her challenger went first; in the second Crossword with two new challengers playing, a coin toss determined who went first. Plus each Crossword round was now timed, and when time was called, the rest of the round was played as Speedword.
In Scrabble Sprint, the winner of the first Crossword established the time, that the winner of the second Crossword had to beat. The winner of the game won $1,000 and the right to play Bonus Sprint for an increasing jackpot.
In the Bonus Sprint, the champ of the day tried to answer two words in under ten seconds. Doing so won the jackpot which started at $5,000 plus $1,000 for every day it's not won. As the ten-second penalty remains in effect, missing either word results in an automatic loss. Win or lose, the champ returned to play the next day.
Champions stayed on the show till they won five days or defeated.
The 1993 version was played the same way as the second format in the 80s version, except that the bonus squares no longer awarded instant cash bonuses to the contestants; they now added money to the bonus sprint jackpot, which started off at $1,000. The highest Sprint jackpot in this version was $20,500.
Two contestants, one a returning champion, played the crossword game just like in the second format of the series. What's different about this Crossword is that the contestants now played for money on each word; and it used the same pot format from the beginning of the series. The pot started at $25 on each word, and each correct letter was worth $25 more. Colored squares added extra money in addition to the $25; blue squares were worth $125 ($100 + $25) and pink squares were worth $225 ($200 + $25). Four words were played, and on the fourth and final word, the dollar values were doubled, meaning that correct letters were now worth $50 for normal white squares with that amount put into the pot to start, $250 ($200 + $50) for the blue squares and $450 ($400 + $50) for the pink squares. The contestant who guessed the word won the money in the pot for that word alone. The contestant with the most money after that fourth word won the game, and earned the right to play Scrabble Sprint as usual.
In the pilot Scrabble Sprint, the winning contestant faced the contestant with the fastest Scrabble Sprint time of the week. Scrabble Sprint play was the same as always except that only the Crossword winner can play it, and there was a choice of five envelopes at the start of the week with one less choice each day. The player who guessed four words in the fastest time possible at the end of the Friday episode won $25,000 in cash.
Taped 8/1/90 on what would become the 1993 set (and using a cue from that version as the main theme), the basic format of the original run remained intact, except that each game had a theme for all the words used.
The centerpiece of the 1984-1990 set was a giant rotating cube, which moved back and forth. Two sides were lighted Scrabble boards; one side was a rear projection screen used for the Crossword game, concealed by two sliding doors, with two screens below it for the letters. The fourth side was used for the Sprint rounds, a nine-screen display, again with two screens below it for the letters.
For the 1990 pilot and 1993 revival, the new cube had all four sides the same as the original; it had a Crossword side, two Scrabble Board sides and a Sprint side, but unlike the 1990 pilot, the crew was never able to get the cube to rotate when the revival series began. So the cube became stationary, although it still moved back and forth, with the rear projection screen used for all rounds.
The constant was the contestant area, which turned 90 degrees to reveal the Sprint area. In late 1986, a Scrabble sign was added at the top of the Crossword area; prior to this there was no sign except during special events including "Teen Weeks". After the regular sign was added, a new "Teen Week" sign was added for those weeks.
For the Crossword game, Chuck stood at a small podium next to the cube, which faced the contestants. Chuck's podium was removed from the set when the sprint round was played.
For the 1980s series, there was a giant pink Scrabble sign that hung over the set. The sign went up when the crossword game was played. Starting in mid-1986, spotlights would dance across it two letters at a time (similar to the 1980 Blockbusters sign). On the first finale in 1990, Chuck mentioned that the sign was held by thin wires; he even feared that he was going to lose his neck if the sign was going to come down on him, but it never did. The 1984 pilot didn't have that sign; instead, a superimposed blue logo appeared in its place during the opening & closing of the show. The 1990 pilot and 1993 revival also didn’t have that sign; instead, there was a new, smaller on-the-floor Scrabble sign.
A board game called TV Scrabble was released by Selchow & Righter in 1987; it was the only home version which was originally a board game itself, until Trivial Pursuit in 1993.
Marc Ellis & Ray Ellis
Based on the board game of the same name by Selchow and Righter (later Milton Bradley, now Hasbro)
NBC Studios, Burbank, California
Xanfan's Scrabble Page
Rules for Scrabble @ loogslair.net
Rules for Scrabble @ The Game Show Temple
1990 Scrabble Pilot @ usgameshows.net
Josh's Scrabble Rules Page
Another Scrabble Rules Page
A blog about the TV Scrabble board game from 1987
Flash game for the Scrabble Sprint