“All in the Family”

Common Ground and crossword puzzles are cousins. Other family relatives include Hangman, Wheel of Fortune and Scrabble. Why? Each and every one of these challenges requires the player to complete a word or phrase while supplied with few or no letters.

In a crossword, you begin with an empty grid, but as each square is filled to complete a response in one direction, those letters become partial responses to clues for the other direction. Soon, the grid is populated with numerous Hangman-like puzzles, in progress, with only the letters correctly guessed thus far, actually shown. Is it any wonder that crossword puzzle enthusiasts fare extremely well as contestants on Wheel of Fortune? The executive producer of that show, Harry Friedman, once said: “The best puzzle solvers are people who are avid readers and crossword puzzle players, because they know how letters and words look to the eye.”

Common Ground takes it all a step beyond, requiring the player to build the partially filled in response in their mind, and completing the full word or phrase without benefit of a board or puzzle grid. The clue is the letter sequence plucked from the item given and placed in the category, essentially with unfilled spaces on either side. Now the player is basically solving a crossword, Hangman or Wheel of Fortune puzzle!

Scrabble relates in a lesser way, in that the letter sequence in one’s rack must be added to an existing letter (or letters) already on the board, combining partial words with at least one other letter, to form a valid word.

Given the letter sequence “TER”, in a Scrabble rack and a free “M” on the board, they could play “TER” before the “M” to make the word “TERM.”

In Wheel of Fortune, if the category is “Phrase” with “TER” revealed on a board (shown below)

_T_ _ _  <>    _ _ TER  <>  R _ _ _  <>  DEEP

The contestants’ minds would be mentally adding letters in front of “TER” and would likely think “WATER” easily completing the rest of the phrase.

In Common Ground, a player might be given an item “WATER” and pluck the letter sequence “TER” from it and try to build a word found in the category “Occupations”, around those letters. “CARPENTER”, “TERMITE INSPECTOR”, or simply “EXTERMINATOR” might come to mind.

So no matter what word game a player chooses, each will have them mentally manipulating letters, while imagining the appearance in the final outcome. A nimble mind and perseverance will guarantee a solution to any challenge found in this family of word games.

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