I play Scrabble online with a phone app that offers a seemingly unending supply of potential partners. At any one time I am probably playing two dozen games. Whenever I have free time, I open up to the contacts listed under “Your Move,” and dive in.

A personal conclusion I’ve drawn, now that I’ve been playing with so many people, is that there are generally two sorts of competitors—achievers and constructors.

The achiever is generally focused on getting the high-scoring letters to hot points on the board or connected to other high-scoring words. Achievers score big early on in the game. However, games with them tend to coagulate; the reason being that their goal can be accomplished with short words fit tightly together like a crossword puzzle. Before long you feel like you’re trying to push another piece into a Rubik’s Cube, and to that frustration is added the stress of working with one-syllable, unpronounceable “words.”

What I call constructors, on the other hand, are players whose goal from the beginning is to maintain an edge-to-edge framework that will sustain the game from beginning to end. They’re usually trying for the longest meaningful word they can play, and won’t discard it to play a 2-3 letter grunt at a hot point unless they’re really desperate for points. They see themselves duty-bound to extend as far as possible into blank areas, to give both partners more room to play.

Achievers, of course, usually win the game. I think a good number of governmental agencies are made up of a preponderance of achievers, not connected to the public as you’d think they would be or driven to build infrastructure for the public good. They hold out until they can move on projects through which they will personally gain. Before long, the agency they build becomes a glutinous mass, devoid of meaning and letting no one else in.

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