Zyzzyva: The Trusted Word Judging Software for Competitive Scrabble

zyzzyva anagram quiz on webpage

Created by Nick Frazier for WordFinder

If you have the drive to become truly great at word games, Scrabble in particular, you need to learn some important details. The first and most important is understanding how valuable it is to practice. Success with Scrabble comes down to memorization of essential words. Zyzzyva is one of the best programs out there that can help hone your anagram-solving skills. It can help you win.

What Is Zyzzyva?

Zyzzyva is a program that teaches you to memorize words. Save specific words and Zyzzyva will then create anagram puzzles using those words. It’s akin to a digital version of the flashcards you might use to memorize information for a class project, school test or job presentation.

Who Created Zyzzyva?

Scrabble expert, tournament winner and tournament director Michael Thelen originally created the Zyzzyva program. He is a member of the Technology Committee and Zyzzyva Committee at NASPA

No Longer Open Source

Thelen created Zyzzyva with the intention of offering it as an open-source program. However, since it is officially used by NASPA with their proprietary word list (and Collins Dictionary for international Scrabble players), it was changed to closed-source. It is still free to download, though.

Compatible Systems

Zyzzyva is available for Windows, macOS and Linux. In fact, one of the main reasons Michael Thelen first created Zyzzyva was so Linux users could have a quality Scrabble study program. Versions of the software for Android and iOS are still in development.

Zyzzyva: What’s in a Name?

For those wondering, yes, zyzzyva is a real word. It’s the name given for a type of tropical American weevil. It also used to be the last word in the dictionary. (The last word in the dictionary now is “zzz.”) That’s one of the reasons Michael named his program after it. Thelen once said, “I could call Zyzzyva the last word in word study.”

How Zyzzyva Helps

Zyzzyva helps you study words and hone your anagram skills. You can find words, anagrams for words, and their definitions. You can also take quizzes. Your goal while using Zyzzyva is to figure out which words you need the most help with. Once you know what they are, the program can routinely challenge you with them.

Custom Scrabble Training

One of the best things about Zyzzyva is you can refine your searches and criteria to unscramble words from any assortment of letters. You can set Zyzzyva to show you words that match your desired word lengths, number of vowels, specific consonants and more.

The specifics and settings are ideal. But, they wouldn’t do much if you didn’t have a tool that used your information to actively challenge and train you. This is where the Cardbox system in Zyzzyva comes into play.

Carry the Word Workload with Cardbox 

The program’s Cardbox system allows you to effectively study and memorize the words you need the most help with. A Cardbox is a collection of words you wish to study. You can organize them in multiple boxes, and you can set specific parameters for each box.

Use Boxes to Sort and Order Words

A Cardbox will pull your desired words from a downloaded word list—typically the NASPA Word List (NWL), Collins Scrabble Words (CSW) or any worthwhile Scrabble dictionary—and create anagrams of them. You decide how many words should be in a box, and you tell the box to remind you to solve a desired number of anagrams. This is what creates the quizzes.

Keep Focused on What’s Important

The quizzes track how well you did with each jumbled word. They show how long you took to solve a word, how many words you failed to find and how many words you got wrong. When you get a word wrong and you know you need more practice with it, you can move it to another Wordbox. 

Boxes That Stack

Wordboxes are ordered and ranked. The lower level ones contain words you need to study the most. The higher levels are words that you have mastered or nearly mastered. When you repeatedly do well with a word, you can move it up to another box. If you keep having trouble, you keep it in a lower box so the program will continue to challenge you with it more frequently.

Bonus Training and Information for Every Word

When you solve an anagram during a quiz, the Wordbox will also show you the word’s definition. More importantly, it will show you a list of letters you can add to the start or end of the word to create a completely different word. 

This is useful because it helps you remember which words you can make by hooking your word to a letter already on a Scrabble board. In all, every aspect of every tool Zyzzyva has is built to make you a better player.

From Z to A: The Aerolith Alternative

Zyzzyva is a comprehensive and somewhat demanding Scrabble training program. If you keep up with your daily practice sessions, your memorized word list will grow dramatically. One possible issue is you need to download the program. Using a browser-based word trainer might be the better option for some people. In that case, a good alternative is Aerolith. This web-based program provides a ton of options to help you learn thousands of new and useful words.

Zac Pricener has been a content creator for the past eight years. He’s a bit of an all-around nerd, and he has a bad habit of working movie and TV show references into conversations whenever possible.


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