Before you start your email of indignation, yes I know that there's nothing inherently valuable about a puzzle with an unusually high or low Scrabble score, but it can be an indication that something interesting is going on. I'll be discussing several puzzles in this post which NYT subscribers can solve by clicking the Across Lite link, or anyone can view by clicking my answers link.
So, which puzzles have the highest Scrabble scores? There are different ways to parse the data. Total score rewards puzzles that not only have high average values but that also have few black squares, but average letter value seems to be what people focus on so I'll do the same. Going strictly by the numbers, the clear winner is Nancy Salomon for her Jan 30, 2007 puzzle (Across Lite, answers) which scores an amazing 2.49.
I'm not quite ready to give her the crown, though. The theme is frequent repetition of one particular high-value letter. It looks like a Guiness Book of Records attempt. Next on the list is Michael Shteyman's 2002 effort scoring 2.27 (Across Lite, answers) which I have to disqualify on the grounds that none of the theme entries are actual words. Next, scoring 2.16, is Brendan Emmett Quigley's April 24, 2007 puzzle (Across Lite, answers) which is similar in approach to Ms. Salomon's.
There are only seven puzzles with average letter values over 2.0. Two of them are from Michael, and two, including the next on the list, are by Peter Gordon. He came up with this 2.14 puzzle (Across Lite, answers) in 1998 and, although it includes a killer foreign word and a card game I'd never heard of, it looks and feels like a regular puzzle rather than an overt attempt to game the system. Just behind at 2.13 is another Michael Shteyman construction from 2003, and this one is absolutely amazing. I don't want to give it away, but try it (Across Lite) or if you insist check out the answers.
It's harder to score high on the larger Sunday grids. The top scorers in this category are Brendan Emmett Quigley at 1.78 (Across Lite, answers), Charles Deber at 1.77 (Across Lite, answers), and Rich Norris at 1.76 (Across Lite, answers.)
If you recall, a couple of days ago I blogged about the Lowest Scrabble score and that came from Peter Gordon as well (Across Lite, answers.) In fact, if you've done the puzzle, he nails the theoretical minimum. His low score cannot be beat.
So, for owning the low score and for having one of the best of the high ones, the JimH Crossword Blog hereby declares Peter Gordon the Scrabbliest Of Them All. Your trophy will be coming in the mail, C.O.D. of course, direct from Shanghai. Just pay the additional Import Tax and it's yours to keep.
If you're interested in exploring more, I've added a new page on my stats site where you can look at more high and low, daily and Sunday puzzles.
No time left for comments on today's Monday puzzle by Ken Bessette but the answers are posted and the other bloggers can give you details.