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Alexa tricks to get you through Thanksgiving with family

Thanksgiving has the potential for especially fraught family gatherings this year. Here are some ways Alexa can help.

Alexa, the voice control assistant living inside Amazon's Echo, Echo Dot and Tap speakers, is extremely versatile. She can adjust your thermostat, give you news headlines from around the world and even start your robot vacuum.

But can she help when your Aunt Shirley starts talking about her stamp collection during Thanksgiving dinner? Actually, we think she can.

Here are our favorite tips and tricks for overcoming awkward family conversations during the holiday season -- with Amazon's Alexa.

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Game time

Watching a game -- or two -- can be a great source of entertainment during a family gathering. It isn't a bad way to avoid potentially uncomfortable run-ins with relatives, either. Here are some sports-related questions you can ask Alexa, straight from Amazon.com. There's no need to enable a Skill for these.

  • "Alexa, what is the score of the Ohio State Buckeyes football game?"
  • "Alexa, who is winning the Washington Nationals game?"
  • "Alexa, when do the Seattle Storm play next?"
  • "Alexa, who won the Chicago Bulls game?"
  • "Alexa, what was the score of the Kentucky Wildcats game?"
  • "Alexa, when is the next Oregon Ducks game?"
  • "Alexa, how are the New York Rangers doing?

Unfortunately, Alexa wasn't able to list off all of the NFL football games playing on Thanksgiving day. Get those details here.

Let's play...

Trade in traditional board games this Thanksgiving for one of Alexa's many game-related Skills. Here are a few we really like:

1. Amazing Word Master

Enable the Skill for this game and then say, "Alexa, ask Word Master to play a game," or "Alexa, open Word Master" to start. Alexa will then say a word and you have to respond with a word that starts with the letter her word ended with. The longer your word, the higher you score.

2. Jeopardy! J6

Enable the Jeopardy! J6 Skill in your Alexa app and say, "Alexa, play Jeopardy." She'll then give you six questions that you have to answer in the form of a question (only six are available per day). She might say something like: "The 2002 film 'Red Dragon' featured this Anthony Hopkins villain," to which you'd respond, "Who is Hannibal Lecter?"

3. Abra

Enable the Abra Skill and launch the game by saying, "Alexa, start Akinator!" Think of a real or fictional character and Alexa will ask you a series of questions to try to guess the person. She guessed Michael Jackson and Elsa from the movie "Frozen" very quickly when I played with her.

Musical interludes

If you want to play some background music during Thanksgiving dinner or simply queue up a specific song, Alexa has got you covered. Here are the services Alexa devices currently support:

  • Amazon Music
  • Prime Music
  • Amazon Music Unlimited
  • Spotify Premium
  • Pandora
  • TuneIn
  • iHeartRadio
  • Audible

Depending on the service you're using, you may have to link the account with your Alexa app. Generally, though, you can just ask Alexa to play "Samson" by Regina Spektor, "So Long, Marianne" by Leonard Cohen, assorted jazz songs -- really whatever pops into your head -- and she will.

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Alexa, the jokester

Alexa also has a decent sense of humor. Here are a variety of random commands and questions she'll respond to that are pretty darn entertaining during a family get-together.

  • "Alexa, initiate self-destruct sequence."
  • "Alexa, tell me a dirty joke." I promise, these answers are totally kid-friendly.
  • "Alexa, can you rap/sing/beatbox?"
  • "Alexa, tell me a random fact."

Are you still looking for more info on what Alexa can do? Check out this rundown of all things Alexa.