I found and purchased this board game, Cross-Up by Milton Bradley, at an antique shop in Sweetwater, Tennessee. When I saw it I turned to my wife and said, “Look! It’s Lucy from I Love Lucy!!!” Judging the cover of the game, I would assume that is what the publishers would have hoped a prospective buyer like me would have done. As can be seen in the image, the cover has a canned cursive Lucy signature. The signature looks nothing like the signature on the Lucille Ball Wikipedia page. Despite this and the image of her sitting behind the table, this game appears to have no further references to the great American icon.
Cross-Up has a copyright date of 1974. According to Wikipedia, 1974 was the last year Lucy was credited as starring in any particular movie or show. It kind of hurts me to look at her face. She’s like a grandmother smiling longingly at me, hoping she’ll get to play the game with me, while also sad and exasperated like she has low expectations that will ever happen. I hope they simply edited her picture onto the cover, otherwise I would feel sorry for the camera man who surely felt he must play the game she’s advertising to keep from breaking her heart. Enough about that, on to the game-play.
Cross-Up is advertised as a game for two or more players. I would like to know if there is a world record on the number of people who have played Cross-Up at one time. Four game pads are provided, but the five-by-five letter play grid is easy enough to draw out on a piece of scrap paper.
There are two decks of cards containing one letter on each card. The decks are shuffled together and dealt face down into six equal piles. Each face down pile is then turned face up and placed in a spot within the letter card tray. The letter frequencies are as follows.
A – 9; B – 4; C – 4; D – 4; E – 12; F – 3; G – 3; H – 3; I – 9; J – 2; K – 2; L-4; M – 3; N – 6; O – 8; P – 3; Q – 1; R – 6; S – 4; T – 6; U – 4; V – 2; W – 2; X – 1; Y – 2; Z – 1; Total: 108
It is best for all players to agree on a dictionary before play begins to alleviate the kinds of conflicts that arise out of playing word game board games. Take care when doing this. While house rules often state that if a word is in the dictionary it’s fair game, I noticed that the Merriam-Webster dictionary we were using had correct spellings of popular biographical figures, and we all know that’s not Scrabble kosher.
The rules say all of the players simply determine who will go first by mutual consensus. They obviously have never played a game with the people I play with. We used a single die, highest roller went first. Each player chooses a letter tile, calls it out loud, and places it prominently where everyone can see it. Then each player chooses where they would like to place that letter within their five-by-five play grid. Play continues in a clockwise manner with everyone drawing a card until 25 cards are drawn. Once players have filled out their play grids after the 25th letter, they calculate the points of the number of three to five letter words they were able to construct. The letters J, K, Q, V, W, X, Y, and Z are considered special letters. If a word contains one special letter, the total point value of that word is multiplied by two. With two special letters it is multiplied by four. With three special letters it is multiplied by eight. And with four special letters it is multiplied by sixteen!
The corners of the play grid are labeled starting in the upper left corner and going clockwise: A, B, D, and C. Legal words may be read horizontally A to B, vertically A to C, diagonally A to D, or diagonally C to B. The point values are rated below. As can be seen, it pays to favor diagonal words over horizontal ones. Five letter words are the brass ring.
Diagonal 5 Letter – 15 points
Diagonal 4 Letter – 8 points
Diagonal 3 Letter – 5 points
Horizontal/Vertical 5 Letter – 10 points
Horizontal/Vertical 4 Letter – 4 points
Horizontal/Vertical 3 Letter – 3 points
As you can see from our scores, I tend to be awful at word games. That being said, I think playing this game would help someone who was trying to become a better Scrabble player. The entire game could be viewed as an exercise in creating as many three to five letter adjoining words in a tight space as possible, an art that really separates the expert Scrabble players from the loser laymen like me. Cross-Up is a simple game that takes little time and preparation to play and is fairly enjoyable while it lasts. See if you can pick it up for around three dollars like I did.