In the Plates Across America® game, the quality of your answer to a puzzle will determine how far you travel: anywhere from 1 to 6 miles. But what constitutes a "good" answer? The simplest statement is: the more characters there are, the better it is. However, there are a host of more refined scoring rules that come into play. This article covers some of the more important ones and explains the rationale behind them.
Pluralizing a word adds 1 extra character without much additional cleverness. If one person comes up with a 7 character answer and then tacks on the "s", should they get the same score as the person that thought of a more "natural" (non-pluralized) 8 character answer? We think not, so a non-pluralize word will score higher than a pluralized word of equal length.
Similar to the pluralization reasoning, there are a number of other ways to easily tack on extra characters. For the puzzle "SWR", the answer "swear" is valid but short and it does not require any more sophistication to pad some characters and make it "swearing". However, the word "steward" is longer than the word "swear" and deserves more credit, even if the person did not think to tack on an extra "ing" to that word.
The process of taking a word and reducing it to it "base" form is called lemmatization. When scoring answers, we will prefer the "lemma", or the "root" word to shorter words with some simple extensions.
The game does not permit hyphenated words, though there is a fine line between these and compound words. For the valid compound words, we assign a slightly lower score than the other words of equivalent length. We believe that the person coming up with one long word should get more credit than a person that just tacks two short words together.
Though word length is the predominant means we use to measure the answer quality, we have rules in place to prevent rewards for padding an answer's length with trivial extensions.
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