Play Categories, a fun creative-juicy word game (and you could win a prize)!

"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:



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.

Above each column, we'll write our categories. When I was a kid, we used categories like animals, foods, girl’s names, and colors.  As an adult, I have found it more fun to use farther-fetched categories, as you will see.

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.  

Now we fill in the grid with words in the categories that start with the letters, that is, animals that start with the letters W, O, R, and D; foods that start with those letters, and so on.

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:

Now, you’ll notice a few things about this:
  1. Spelling isn’t so important (Osso Bucco has two Cs).
  2. There's nothing wrong with putting the same word in more than one category if it fits both.
  3. Rules are malleable. “Wishbone salad dressing” is absolutely a food, but a bit of askew to the category. I would still count it.
  4. 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.  
  5. “Delta Dawn,” being a double D, could be worth a bonus point. (Insert your own boob joke here.)
  6. 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.)


  1. Make your grid.
  2. Write in the categories and words below.
  3. Fill in the grid and post your answers by May 21. 
  4. Post your grid in the comments section in this format:
Wallaby-Wishbone salad dressing-Winona-Watermelon
Owl-Osso buco-Olive-Olive
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.



  1. Brazilian Wax Bassa “NO!” va – Bedazzled – Browbeaters – Bootylicious

    Ants in Pants Polka – Aurora Aura – Arresting Officers – Algorithm

    Coffee in Lapdance – Cyberglow – Clandestine Clanboyz – Cauliflower

    Kickedin Ball – Kell’s jar of fireflies – Killer Pickles - Kaleidoscope

    1. A competitive first entry by Patricia! Genuine LOL at Kickedin Ball earns 2 bonus points. Kell's jar of fireflies earns another for the richness of imagery. Ants in Pants Polka gets an extra point just because I like polka and appreciate the surprise-factor of this entry. 1 bonus point for ending the 4-syallable words with different letters. Total FWP points: 21 with a woot!

    2. Revised: 22 with a hoot. +1 for coffee in lapdance.

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  3. Boogaloo / blonde / Bette's Bombers / Bartholomew

    Acrobatic dance / airy / Acrophobic Astronauts / acknowledgment

    Cha Cha / crystalline / CrankyCantankerous Geezers /charismatic

    kick dancing (like the Rockettes) / kilowatt / Kinky Kangaroos / knowledgeable

    1. Nice! 16 for the complete set. +1 for four very different ways of synonymizing "light" +3 for the double-letters in the made-up band category, and +1 4-syllable bonus. FWP points: 21 cha cha cha.

  4. What?? No extra credit for the "coffee in lap dance"? LOL

  5. Here are mine. This was fun.:)

    Bossa Nova/brilliant/Bad Boys/bodalicious

    Apache/ablaze/Artista and Acrobats/antideluvian

    Carioca/carefree/Ceiling Climbers/cinematographer

    Krumping/kerosene lamp/ Keep Kiting/kaleidoscope

    1. "This was fun" I second that!
      Lionmother (and happy Lion Mothers Day) earns 16 points for completion. Both Apache and Krumping made me say "ahhh" so I'll give an extra point and a half between the two. +1 point for the 4-syllable word bonus. Also like "Artists and Acrobats." +1. I think "Bad Boys" actually is a band, but I will pretend I don't suspect that and let it slide :) Nice going with a 19 1/2 point grid and a ROAR.

  6. Big fun! :) Thank you.

    Boogie-Bop Bailar - blazing bulb - Bohemian Bicycle (a Queen cover band) - believable
    Apoplectic Arial Arc - angelic aura - Arbitrary Angst (Grunge band) - articulate
    Charo Cha-Cha-Cha - chandeliered - Cosmic Coronary - celebration
    Kindergarten Kiddie Krunk - keyhole kaleidoscope - King Kong's Kiss - kilometer

    1. De!
      Happy Mother's Day
      16 points baseline. Love your dances, all four of them, but particularly the Apoplectic Aerial Arc, which is very dangerous, and the Kindergarten Kiddie Krunk, also very dangerous. +2! Love the bands! Bohemian Bicycle did, did rock me. Also hope to score tickets to King Kong's Kiss sometime. +2 And so many double- and triple-letter answers scores another +2 overall. 22 FWP points for D

  7. Thanks for the Mom's Day fun~

    Bikini Bump, Bling, Big Daddy Beer, Boisterously.

    Arabesque, Aha!, Albony teeny tights, Alterations.

    Clogging, candling,Chili Charcoal, candelabra.

    Klod-hopping,Krio-mite explosion, Knittens (kittens made of yarn!) and Kiss-a-holic.

    `Jlynn Sheridan

    1. Happy Mom's Day :)
      You got the 16 for the full grid. Bikini Bump sounds alluring. +1. Klod-hopping I think is a "C" word, but I will let it clide. Also like how your "light" synonyms are all very different from one another. +1. "Big Daddy Beer" garnered a bubble chuckle and a bonus point. "Knittens" sounds too cute for me. Call it a personal preference. Extra point for ending your 4-syllable words on different letters, and another extra for "Kiss-a-holic," a lovely off-the-grid response. 21 FWP points

  8. Blues dancing (got to say it, that's how I met Sarah)
    Bingo Rodeo (square-dancing for seniors)
    Burgermeister (one of my favorite words)

    All skate (I couldn't resist)
    Ampersandwich (oh, wait, that's not a word... How about "astrophysics"?)

    Congress of Vienna (yes, it is a dance... I'm flying my geek flag on this one)
    Collapsible Giraffe (for some bizarre reason, this is the first thing I wrote in the grid)
    Collapsible (which made this entry obvious)

    Kundalinipalooza (they're playing that festival of vegan kirtan, man)

    1. Hey, TK!

      Lol at "All skate." Amazing how a tiny phrase can act as a time machine (7th grade in 1981.) +1
      I'm compelled to respect the finessed geekiness of "Congress of Vienna" with a +1.
      +1 for Collapsible Giraffe. I like the sound of that band.
      +1 for the 4-syllable sandwich
      + 1/2 for ampersandwich, which could have appeared in the made up bands category as well. And could I eat that with a caret, please?
      20 1/2 FWP for TK

  9. Ballet - Buoyant - Band Name for Dummies - Benevolent
    Allemande - Airy - The Apes of Ath - Aviation
    Cake Walk - Candle - Creative Cat Skinners - Concavity
    Knee-Knocking - Kindle - Korn on the Kob (A Kover Band) - Kilometer

    1. I see I coincided with TK on three of the four "lights". I guess we think alike. Is that OK? Should I come up with others instead? If you prefer: Bright, Albedo, Candle, and Kate Moss.

    2. Phil!
      Re: your FB comment, yes we used to play 5x5 grids. I thought 4x4 would be easier for online play, at least to start. I hope to do more of these and throw some wild cards out there in the future. You know all about wild cards!

      You score 16 for the grid. +1 for the 4-syllable bonus challenge. +1 for Band Name for Dummies, and +2 total for 4 double-word entries for a grand total of 20 FWP points and a blackjack!

    3. I ended up doing the Grid Game instead of the other prompt! :-)

      Bee Bopp Arubopp - burn - Boa Constrictors - biligerent
      Ankle Shuffle - aflame - All Boy Band - agitated
      Cozy Trio - clarity - Coiling Crimps - convoluted
      Knee Jerk - knowing - Kibitzers - kindergarten

      I'll look at the other entries now. Will I write something... not yet sure! Hugs.

    4. Janice:
      Glad you felt like another ground of the grid game.
      If you'd like an FWP score, here it is: 16 for completion, +2 for listing 4 dances I'd never heard of but at least 3 of which I have danced myself. +1 for The Kibitzers, my new favorite post-punk klezmer combo. 19 points with a knee jerk!


      Declaring round 1 over with Phawkinson and PSC tied for 1st place. Shoot me your address by email so I get your prizes in the mail.


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