Recently, my twin sons Alex and Eli have taken a shine to crossword puzzles. They’re only 3½, but they love letters and words, so I started making up crosswords for them using a free online crossword puzzle maker. I construct clues based on things they know — for instance, REMY is the answer to the clue OUR DOG, and IDAHO is the answer to the clue STATE NAME WE CAN SPELL WITH OUR BATH TUB LETTERS. (They have a set of foam alphabet letters, but each letter A‑Z occurs only once, so it’s not possible to spell any words with repeated letters.) They don’t quite have the motor skills to write the letters, so they read the clues and spell the answers aloud as I fill in the grid.
Tonight, I asked if they’d like to help me make a crossword puzzle. I drew a 3 × 3 grid, and I asked, “To make a crossword puzzle, you have to fill in words both down and across. Can you give me a word with three letters?” Eli suggested TOW, which I used in the first row of the grid:
Then I asked, “Okay, so the word in the first column starts with a T. Can you think of a three‑letter word that starts with a T?” Never one to overlook the obvious, Eli suggested TOW again. I filled it in, and we moved to the middle column. “Can you think of a three‑letter word that starts with an O?” Alex suggested ONE. Eli immediately realized that we could now add an E at the end of the middle row to make ONE. At that point, eight of the nine squares were filled. I pointed to the third column. “Can you think of a three-letter word that starts with a W and an E?” Eli shouted WET, and the grid was complete:
Eli then pointed out that ELI contains three letters. “Let’s make another one!” he said. So we did:
Alex then requested that we make a 4 × 4 grid that included his name, and I was very impressed with the grid that they concocted:
I told you that story mainly because I like talking about my sons, but also because it leads me to a cool puzzle that I think you’ll enjoy.
Use the point values for each letter as in the word game SCRABBLE:
- 1 point: A, E, I, O, L, N, R, S, T, U
- 2 points: D, G
- 3 points: B, C, M, P
- 4 points: F, H, V, W, Y
- 5 points: K
- 8 points: J, X
- 10 points: Q, Z
Create a 4 × 4 grid composed of common English words (you can use the list of official Scrabble four‑letter words** as a reference) such that the sum of the point values of the 16 letters is as high as possible.
The 4 × 4 grid that my sons created would be disqualified, because IOWA and ALEX are proper nouns. That aside, it contains four A’s; two O’s, W’s, V’s, L’s and E’s; one I; and, one X. If it were acceptable, it would be worth 35 points.
I was able to create a grid with a sum of 62 points. I’m sure that better grids are possible. What’s the best that you can do?
** Special thanks to Veky Edgar, who pointed out that the list of four-letter words appearing on my web site was incorrect. The list has been updated, and I’ve stolen it from a more credible source this time, so I believe it is now correct.