WATCH: South Africa's new Scrabble champion and the missing Survivor idol

Io is a valid Scrabble word. Didn't know that? Well, the newly crowned South African Scrabble champion Dr Harry Wiggins does, and it's one of the many words in his arsenal that took him to the top.

The University of Pretoria lecturer, who has been playing Scrabble for a decade, took the top honours last weekend in Johannesburg after placing a number of big score words on the board.

An elated Wiggins told News24 that one of the words that assisted him in winning was Qats - an evergreen shrub - which scored him 50 points. He won 12 out of 16 games and ultimately the tournament.

"I'm over the moon. It’s a super strong field; a lot of these players have been playing Scrabble for more than 10 years," Wiggins said.

"I was ecstatic at winning this tournament, I have taken part six or seven times, each time [coming] in short. I was very shocked - it felt surreal."


Wiggins also participated in season 4 of Survivor South Africa in the Maldives in 2011. Believe it or not, his Scrabble skills came in handy.

Wiggins explained that in one of the challenges, his team had to row a boat to collect letters to form a palindrome.

"You had to create a palindrome phrase, but when I saw the letters I immediately saw the answer," he said, beaming.

"I got to use my Scrabble skills to win the challenge, because physicality is not my strength. But I knew that puzzles is."

Wiggins lasted 15 days before being voted off the island, but not before he managed to find and lose an immunity idol.

"I still get sleepless night about that blunder."

Wiggins found the idol, which he could have used to save himself from being voted off.

But after changing the idol's hiding spot several times, it became a puzzle that he could not solve - he could not remember the exact spot of where it was hidden.

"I did such a good job at hiding it that I can guarantee you that it's still on the island. Hopefully if they have another season of Survivor on that island, someone else can find and use it."

World Championships

Following his win, Wiggins will join Dr Trevor Hovelmeier in representing South Africa at the World English-Speaking Scrabble Players Association Championships in Goa, India in October.

Wiggins said he is hoping to place in the top 20, adding that of the 200 players expected to participate, most started playing Scrabble as youngsters.

The wordsmith and math magician adds that he will most certainly be practising in the hopes of beating some of Scrabble's best players.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 379 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
82% - 4623 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
11% - 649 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.