I’m outta control!
My friend (let’s call him “Rob”) recently said to me, “You really are addicted to that Wordle thing, aren’t you? What’s that all about?”
I find words irresistible. When I was a kid, I devoured word games in My Weekly Reader and Highlights for Children, Jumble , Scrabble, and even Fun with Phonics. Eventually, mostly in the 1970s and 80s, I regularly tackled The New York Times crossword puzzle in ink (the ink was a challenge from The Veterinarian’s stepfather) and even the Acrostic. Before they were removed from seatbacks, I always grabbed the in-flight magazine on a plane to complete the crossword before take-off. Now, thanks to Covid, I can experience a flight like the average flyer.
Thanks to the word game Boggle, I am never at a loss for something to do; I just grab a word out of thin air and rearrange the letters to see how many words that I can form. I even create my own word games. When I can’t sleep, instead of counting sheep, I go through the alphabet to find words on a topic like rock bands (eg., Aerosmith, Beatles, Cream) or cars (eg., Avanti, Beetle, Corvette). I’m pretty sure that this makes me a wordaholic.
A decade or so ago, The Veterinarian and The Daughter, both highly skilled at math, gobbled up “Sudoku” online, in magazines, and in books. It was too much work for me. While I’m the kind of geek who enjoys balancing checking accounts and creating balanced budgets for grants, it hurt my brain. It was solitary, cold, sterile, unemotional, unsatisfying. Is there a daily Sudoku? Do people congratulate one another on their Sudoku puzzles? Do they offer tips to one another? Do they post them on Facebook?
Wordle is the English major’s equivalent of Sudoku. The craze began a few months ago when software engineer Josh Wardle (clever naming, eh?) created the game for his partner who loves word games and put it online to entertain others, free of charge. The New York Times spent several mil for the rights, but Josh insisted that it remain free online. Love is built right into it. (Why don’t I meet guys like that on match.com?)
Wordle doesn’t tax my brain, which I greatly appreciate first thing in the morning. It reminds me of the final round of Wheel of Fortune. On Wheel, they give the final contestant the letters R, S, T, L, N, E. Why? Because they are used to make endless combinations that appear in common words. And the contestant gets to choose three more consonants and one other vowel. I would pick C, H, K, and Y. Why? Remember that old rhyme about vowels “A-E-I-O-U and sometimes Y and W?” (Say, “awe.”) That pesky “Y” can give a five-letter word two syllables, so think out of the one-syllabic box.
Some people use the same starting word each day, but I rotate them. My choices always have an “r” and a “t” or a digraph such as “sh”, “ck”, or “th.” “Ouija” is never my starting word. It has too many vowels, and five-letter words with a “j” aren’t going to pop up very often. I can fill in the vowels and create my own diphthongs, if I get the correct consonants.
My biggest nemeses, though, are words with the same combination of letters. Last week, for the first time ever, I didn’t get the word in the allowable six tries. My first two guesses were solid, as was the third when I guessed the last four letters in correct order. The problem became the first letter. There are seven words with that combination. I only had three more tries, and I chose the wrong first letter each time.
Luck is an enormous factor. I haven’t seen anyone get the word on the first try, but I have gotten it on the second try, by Dumb Luck. Annoyingly, the game rates the player at the end, which I despise, so I’ve created my own self-rating system:
First word – NGT (Never going to happen); I am not that lucky.
Second word – Dumb Luck; wish I had played the lottery today, instead.
Third word – Small Miracle; not as stupid as I thought I was.
Fourth word – Meh; always a “B” student; good, but not good enough.
Fifth word – Multiple Choice Day; some words are more equal than others.
Sixth word – Phew! saved from being a complete moron.
X – Sighing; it’s just a game.
Another friend (let’s call him “Will”) questioned why people post their results on Facebook, intimating that they are clogging up his feed with irrelevant chatter. I told him to scroll on by. When you have a 5/6 or 6/6 day, it’s reassuring to see that my friends are struggling with it, too. It’s hopeful to see the possibilities when a friend has a 2/6 or 3/6 day and a joy to celebrate their Small Miracles. I always post. If I’m going to post my Small Miracles, I must post my Sighing, too.
Finally, no matter how eloquent, I can’t personally vanquish rampant viruses or raging Russian villains, but I have a 97% success rate with Wordle, soli deo Gloria!