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I don’t think James Brunot had “collaborative Scrabble” in mind when he developed Criss-Cross Word into Scrabble right here in Newtown more than 75 years ago. If you missed last week’s announcement, Mattel has released Scrabble Together — currently only available in the UK, with no current plans for release in the US reportedly because Mattel does not hold the license here — which invites people to collaborate on their turns and make games move faster. We in Newtown take a lot of pride in that internationally celebrated board game. The Scrabble game was developed, copyrighted and trademarked in 1948. That was the year Brunot worked with CrissCross Words creator Alfred Mosher Butts to simplify the rules and board design of Butts’ original creation. Brunot is credited with the name change and creating both the premium squares on the classic board and premium points for some letters. The first tiles were cut in the former Mannix wood shop on South Main Street, and the first tile racks — also cut at that location — were pieces of molding trucked in from Long Island. The first Scrabble boards, boxes and individually stamped letter tiles were assembled in the former Flat Swamp district schoolhouse, which was rented by James Brunot and his wife Helen. By early 1953, 35 employees were working in office space on the second floor of the then-newly constructed Wheeler Shopping Center (now Queen Street Shopping Center), assembling 6,000 game sets each week. While the list of accepted words has certainly expanded over the years (Butts certainly never thought anyone would be allowed to play “adorbs,” “deepfake” or even “jedi”), the game itself has remained a two-person competition. By definition that means someone must win, and someone else will lose. What’s next, Collaborative Battleship?

In the vein of competitions and for those who are counting down to next month’s Scripps National Spelling Bee (like this cat!), regional spelling bees have concluded and the 245 spellers who will make up the Class of 2024 have been solidified. The final crop of spellers is students from California, whose winning word was locomotive; Montana, with the winning word semaphore; Missouri, who won with parkour; Houston, with winning word yagi; New York, with facile; Minnesota, with profundity; and Washington, D.C., with sophomoric. If you read me regularly (as everyone should), you already know that I’m particularly excited for this year’s competition thanks to the inclusion of a Newtown student among this year’s competitors. Next stop for the Class of 2024 is National Harbor, Maryland, in late May, for Bee Week.

The latest stop for Bruce the Spruce, the seasonally decorated artificial tree in Bee Publishing Company’s Production Department, is spring. The ladies in Production have turned Bruce into Spring Showers this month, complete with a few rain drops, an umbrella, rain boots, and even fresh flowers that continue to bloom after each brief shower.

I understand one young attendee of Trinity Episcopal Church has earned a gift certificate to Ferris Acres Creamery for being the winner of the church’s recent Lenten Passport Contest. I’d offer a seal of approval for that work but I believe the children competing in that contest were collecting stickers. Congratulations!

Parents are reminded that we offer a gift certificate to Ferris Acres Creamery every week through our Birthday Cake feature. This long-standing column invites parents, grandparents and guardians to celebrate a child’s approaching birthday by sending us a photo, the child’s first and last name, birthday, and the age they will be turning, to Managing Editor Shannon Hicks by noon each Tuesday. The photos and those details are shared in the paper, and then one name is selected at random to receive a Creamery gift certificate. The Creamery graciously provides each week’s winner with a vanilla-chocolate ice cream cake. There is no fee to participate, and we love sharing birthday wishes with everyone. See page B-5 of this week’s print edition for this week’s Birthday Cake honorees and the few additional details for those who want to join the fun.

Looking for a new home for used books or games? Consider taking them to the rear parking lot of C.H. Booth Library on Sunday. The Friends of the Booth Library Spring Donation Day is planned for April 21, rain or shine from 12 to 5 pm. Volunteers will be eager to receive items in good condition for their Book Sale at Reed Intermediate School from July 12-16. I’ve given some of my own reads to them in the past, and know how good it feels to be able to donate books for that group. I even went one afternoon when it was drizzling, and the Friends volunteers were ready for the weather. They had a cart with a tarp over it and they moved my books so quickly, I don’t think a single drop of rain was able to splash onto a page.

The Hearts of Hope Newtown Chapter received some very good news recently: an $800 grant has been announced from The Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation. NSHCF has been supporting causes of strength and healing since 12/14. Hearts of Hope continues to offer Paint With A Purpose sessions most months, when the public is invited to paint palm-size ceramic hearts with simple messages and images of encouragement.

More good news this week: Newtown PD K-9 Aris has been cleared for full duty. Aris had suffered a life-threatening emergency while preparing for training on April 2. Fortunately his handler, Officer Felicia Figol, was able to get him into emergency surgery for gastric dilation and volculus, a condition where the stomach becomes twisted in dogs with large chests. The condition can be extremely painful and can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated quickly. Fortunately Aris had excellent care and a very good recovery period, complete with cards, notes and even toys from many of his admirers. According to the PD’s Facebook page, Aris went back to work midweek.

I’m going to go back to working with my friends on figuring out the next classic game that will be changed up. One of my favorites has always been Mouse Trap. If someone decides that one needs an update I’ll be sure to let you know as long as you promise to come back next week to … read me again.

The ladies in Bee Publishing Company's Production Department have turned Bruce the Spruce into Spring Showers this month. —Bee Photo, Hicks
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