"Categories” or “The Grid Game” is something my family played on car trips or at home. As an adult, I have found it to be a lot of laughs at parties or writing jams. It’s also a good way to stir up creative energy.
At the last writing jam at my place, Jud, Maria, Janice, Rachel, Lauren, Jason, Ajua and I played. Sharing our results inspired belly laughs as well as a-ha moments. Then we used the answers we came up with as a wordlist for free writing.
So here’s the game and how you can participate now in this blog-based tourney. Three sections follow:
HOW TO PLAY
HOW TO PLAY
Create a 4x4 grid on a piece of paper. You could do this by folding a paper into 16ths, or just draw lines. Here’s mine. You’ll notice I left a little space above and to the left, which is not a bad idea.
When our categories are in place, we pick a four-letter word in which no letters repeat, such as “WORD,” and we put these letters down the left side of the grid so each row is labeled by one letter.
You can work in any order you wish. Usually, there is a time limit, five or ten minutes, but since we’re playing online, take the time you need. I suggest working out of your head with no external resources, but you may do as you wish without fear of reprisal.
Eventually, your grid will be complete. Here’s mine:
- Spelling isn’t so important (Osso Bucco has two Cs).
- There's nothing wrong with putting the same word in more than one category if it fits both.
- Rules are malleable. “Wishbone salad dressing” is absolutely a food, but a bit of askew to the category. I would still count it.
- Answers can go out of bounds. Where “out of bounds” begins is not definitive, but “Delicious rhubarb pie” would generally be regarded as a poor answer because "Delicious" is not a food and "Rhubarb pie" does not start with D. I would declare this answer unpointworthy.
- “Delta Dawn,” being a double D, could be worth a bonus point. (Insert your own boob joke here.)
- I left “Color-D” blank because I couldn’t think of one. With all the time you need, you don’t need to leave any space blank, but you shouldn’t feel bad about doing so if you can’t think of anything. Blanks are okay.
When I was a kid, we scored one point for each cell we filled with a passable answer, and we earned a bonus point if nobody else had the same answer. With categories like “Colors,” this encouraged us to think outside the grid and reach father than “Red.” It also taught us to take risk. We might venture to put in “Raisin-color” only to have family consensus declare the answer unworthy of a point. But the discussion about how to score the word was always lively.
My family was plenty good at being creative, though, so when we got older, we reversed the scoring criteria. We still got a point for each cell filled, but the bonus point was earned when our answers matched someone else’s. This encouraged us to try to find the obvious answer, but by then our categories had gotten more sophisticated, so matching was rare.
The point, though, is that points are mainly beside the point. If you want them, enjoy them.
- Take one point for each cell filled.
- If you see someone match your answer, take a single bonus point (you get one bonus point no matter how many people match).
- When you post your answers, I will arbitrate where you get extra points for answers that are especially good (not to put too fine point on it).
- I will also let you know if any of your answers are out of bounds. (Don’t be afraid to go out of bounds, though. My bounds are pretty huge.)
- Make your grid.
- Write in the categories and words below.
- Fill in the grid and post your answers by May 21.
- Post your grid in the comments section in this format:
Wallaby-Wishbone salad dressing-Winona-Watermelon
Dromedary camel-Delicious rhubarb pie-Delta Dawn-BLANK
I will award points and declare a winner, which will be largely arbitrary, so neither the winner nor non-winners will have cause to take it personally. The winner will get a prize!
You may then use some or all your words in a poem and post that here, too.
Synonyms for “Light”
Made-Up Band Names
4-Syllable Words - Bonus point if no two of these END with the same letter.
THE WORD: BACK