Original Word Games by David Parlett



or Suspended Sentences

Players 3 or more   Type Deductive, creative, bluffing   Equipment Pencil & paper
This variation on the Dictionary Game (also known, in its TV format, as "Call my Bluff") is good for about half a dozen players and is best played with advance preparation. Each round requires a "setter" to set the clue to the sentence for everyone else to discover, and the sentence needs to have been carefully chosen in advance from a suitable literary work. Although it is possible for one person to be the setter throughout, it is more enjoyable if everyone comes prepared with a stock of sentences and takes it in turns to be the setter.
The general idea
The setter, whether the same player throughout or each player in turn, will have chosen a short sentence from a book, preferably a novel by a well-known author, and announces the initial letters of the constituent words. Everyone else then secretly composes and writes on a slip of paper a sentence whose words begin with the same sequence of initials as the original. They pass their results to the setter, who arranges the slips in alphabetical order of the first word and reads them out one by one - including the slip containing the original sentence. Everyone else in turn then votes for which sentence they consider to be the original. For each player, the setter secretly scores 1 point if they vote for the true sentence, and 1 point for each time their own sentence is voted for by somebody else. When all have voted, the setter announces the true sentence and reveals the players' individual scores.
If all the players are taking turns to be the setter, then the setter scores 1 point for each player who failed to vote for the original.
Some advice
One problem with this game is that any sequence of more than about ten letters is very difficult to transform into a likely-sounding sentence. On the other hand, it's not easy to find such short sentences in the works of most writers. In deciding on a sentence, therefore, you needn't feel obliged to pick one that starts with a capital letter and ends with a full point (period), but may instead pick out any genuine sequence of words containing a main verb.
For example, take the following passage from Dickens's "Our Mutual Friend":
The Secretary thought, as he glanced at the schoolmaster's face, that he had opened a channel here indeed, and that it was an unexpectedly dark and deep and stormy one, and difficult to sound.

From this you could legitimately extract -
H G A T S F (He glanced at the schoolmaster's face), or
H H O A C H I (He had opened a channel here indeed), or
I W A U D A D A S O (It was an unexpectedly dark and deep and stormy one).
I would not even object to -
T S T A H G A T S F The secretary thought as he glanced at the schoolmaster's face.
But you could certainly not have -
A H G A T S F (As he glanced at the schoolmaster's face)
as it is only a subordinate clause, not an independent sentence.
Here's one I made earlier.
These examples may mislead you into thinking the game easier than it looks. Once you know what the letters stand for the real sentence seems obvious, not to say inevitable. But now try it without any further clue than that the following comes from the same book.
  1. He'd evidently observed the habits of the full moon.
  2. Have everything, or take half on trust for me.
  3. He'll expect one tenth: helmsmen only talk for money.
  4. He even offered the head of the family marriage!
  5. Hopeful examination of the hoard opened their fecund mouths.
  6. He entered on the history of the friendly move.

Click on the cheetah Speed back to speed to page 2 for the authentic sentence.
Remember, when setting a sentence, that certain letters are commoner than others as initials and therefore easier to turn into words. According to my researches, the relative frequency of individual letters as word initials is, from highest to lowest:

This game was first published in Games & Puzzles magazine and was later entitled Suspended Sentences by Ross Eckler in the same publication. (I can't remember what I originally called it, but Eckler's title is much better.) Eckler also proposes the following variant. Instead of giving the initial letters of the constituent words, you quote a string of figures indicating their lengths. Thus "He glanced at the schoolmaster's' face" would be quoted as 2, 7, 2, 3, 13, 4. I haven't tried this, but guess it might be easier to compose spoof sentences. If so, the original sentence can be longer than in the parent game.
Copyright © 2017 by David Parlett 
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