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Technically, of course, you don’t need to learn anything! (All OWL2 words remain valid.)
In practice, of course, there are some useful basic words to start with.
Because CSW contains all the OWL2 words, you can continue to play the same game, and anything that was good in OWL2 remains good. And because the fundamentals of the game have not changed, the kinds of words that are the most useful to study in OWL2 are also the best to study in CSW. Thus the player who has studied the 2s, 3s, JQXZ words, some 4s, high probability bingos, etc., can continue to use the same methods for CSW.
So how many words are there? In total, the OWL2 contains 178,691 words. CSW, meanwhile, contains 267,750. About half of these are 9–15 letters, and while some 9s can be useful, the vast majority (about 98%) of the gain is with the 2–8s. OWL contains 83,667 of these, while CSW has 30,908 more. This means that, for approximately every 3 OWL2 words, there is an extra CSW word.
However, it is likely that you didn’t start out playing OWL with the intention of learning 178,691 words. Likewise, you can play a good CSW game without needing anything like the extra 30,908 2–8s that are actually present. In fact, you can play a decent game with just the 2s and 3s. Sounds unlikely? Well, the thing to remember of course is that 'every word you know from OWL2 is still valid'! So, as we have already seen that three quarters of the words are OWL2, you are already three quarters of the way there. And in many cases, even more than this, because there will be a choice of moves, many of which will be OWL2.
So, what should you actually study? Here are some lists. In some cases we’ve presented just the most useful words from a list, but you can see the full list by following the link in the heading.
Start with the 2s. There are 23 of these:
CH DA DI EA EE FY GI GU IO JA KO KY NY OB OO OU PO ST TE UG UR YU ZO
While that’s not too many, you probably won’t remember them all straightaway (I’ve played in the Worlds, and I certainly didn’t remember the 2s in one sitting!) They’ll just become a natural part of the game over time.
Following the 2s, there are 277 3s. The most useful 3s are:
EXO AIA WOX ZEX REZ BEZ WOF WAI OOF ZHO JAI ZEA JIZ TIX AUA RIZ HOX DZO ZEL FAW IWI WEX YEX OYE NOX AUE UEY TEX LUZ AYU
Obviously, like in OWL2, you don’t have to be 100% on all the 3s before continuing! While ZIZ may come in handy some day, the chances are, various 4s and bingos will come up first.
The next most useful words are the same as in OWL2: short words with many vowels, high-scorers with J, Q, X and Z, some of the most useful 4s and 5s (words which are likely to be much better than other moves if you have those tiles, such as FAUVE), high probability bingos, dump-words such as 4s with 2 Is, and, of course, words with Q but no U.
2s: EA EE IO OO OU 3s: AIA AUA AUE 4s: EUOI HIOI VIAE HUIA EVOE EOAN ONIE UVAE EINE MOAI ... 5s: AIDOI AINEE AULOI OUIJA ZOAEA ZOOEA 6s: EUOUAE ZOAEAE ZOOEAE 7s: ETAERIO AIERIES OLEARIA EATERIE EUGARIE EQUINIA DOULEIA AURELIA MOINEAU DIANOIA ... 8s: ERIONITE AEROTONE ETAERIOS AEGIRINE DOUANIER TAENIATE AEGIRITE AURELIAN INAURATE OLEARIAS ...
J: JA JAI JIZ JOR JAP JUD ... JEDI JUVE BENJ JEAT JIRD ... OUIJA JEWIE JAXIE EEJIT JIRRE ... Q: WAQF QUEP QUOP QUAT QUIM NIQAB QORMA TALAQ QIBLA QUOIF ... X: EXO WEX WOX YEX ZEX ... GREX FAIX WEXE DIXI LANX ... VITEX JAXIE XOANA VIBEX WUXIA ... Z: ZO ZEA JIZ ZEX REZ BEZ ... ZITE ZATI TREZ ZILA ZOOT ... ZOAEA ZOOEA GRENZ AVIZE WAREZ ...
7s: ETAERIO OTARINE EROTISE AIERIES ORIGANE OTARIES SEALINE OLEARIA RIOTISE OARIEST ... 8s: ERIONITE AEROTONE ETAERIOS AEGIRINE DENTARIA DOUANIER TAENIATE LITERATO AEGIRITE AURELIAN ...
I: DIVI DIXI FIFI FINI MIHI HIOI WILI SIMI PIPI SIRI ISIT U: PUDU WUDU HUHU KUKU PUKU KUTU KUZU PULU ZULU RURU SUSU UTUS YUZU
INQILAB -s QASIDA -s TALAQ -s MUQADDAM -s QAWWAL -s TSADDIQ -s NIQAB -s QAWWALI -s TSADDIQIM QABALISM -s QIBLA -s TZADDIQ -s QABALIST -s QIGONG -s TZADDIQIM QABALISTIC QINGHAOSU -s WAQF -s QAIMAQAM -s QORMA -s YAQONA -s QALAMDAN -s QWERTIES
The basics above are more than enough for a good CSW game. But you may decide you enjoy it, and wish to go further.
The major downside to going further is that it can be difficult to keep the two lexica separate. Although remembering which of the words you now know are “new” (think back to the last dictionary update, if you have been playing that long) is not too bad, remembering a word and remembering which lexicon it is in are not the same thing, especially over a period of time. Those CSW words may come back to haunt you a few months down the line!
But nevertheless, some people have high ratings at both OWL2 and CSW, and one can get to quite a high standard quite quickly.
Chosen correctly, it can be shown that learning the top 1% of the words when ordered by playability is equivalent to learning 25% of all the words. So, for the 2-8s, learning the top 300 from CSW is effectively learning one quarter of all the words newly allowed by that lexicon. This top 25% (or any other fraction) can be accessed by playability in Zyzzyva.
I have incorporated the above into a Collins Cheat Sheet, that is designed to be used by new-to, or occasional player of, CSW. It resembles the original Cheat Sheet by Mike Baron, and the NSA’s “Important Words to Raise Your Score” sheet that was given to new members, except that it concentrates on CSW words.
There is also a Collins Cheat Sheet Part 2, which contains a useful array of the hooks to CSW 2s, and the full set of CSW 4s.
The sheets have now been updated to CSW12. The rest of this section and the wiki will follow in due course.
The full set of extra CSW words is available via Bob’s British Bible.
Finally, while the lists above are useful, is there any word study software for CSW? The current best answer is the same as for OWL2: Zyzzyva. This can easily be set up to supply the regular set of OWL2 words, and, in addition, the CSW words. The latter can be marked with a # sign to distinguish them, and searches can be conducted so that only the CSW words are returned, or, if you want to leave them, the CSW words can be suppressed. One can also, for example, require the correct lexicon as part of a quiz answer.
To set Zyzzyva up with CSW, go to Zyzzyva→Preferences, select “General’ in the left navigation bar in the resulting pop-up window, check the box “Load Lexicons’ if it is not checked, and click on Edit. In the “Select Lexicons’ window, click the toggle button in the leftmost column (“Default”) that is next to CSW. The button one to the right should then be checked, but grayed out. Then, check the box in the second column (“Load”) next to “OWL2+LWL”. Do not check any of the other boxes, which should all be empty. Finally, click OK. The program may need to rebuild the database, which will take a few minutes. The settings as given are telling Zyzzyva to be CSW by default, but to remember which words are CSW-only, i.e., still good in OWL2. You can get at just OWL2 by requiring “In Lexicon’ OWL2 when searching, or ignoring the words with a # mark.
If the CSW words are not already marked by a #, go to Zyzzyva→Preferences, click on “Word Tables’ on the nav-bar, and edit accordingly.
Comments concerning this page may be directed to Nick Ball.