My Turn: Wordle’s words grant us grace

  • A screenshot of a typical result of the online word-guessing game Wordle. WIKICOMMONS

Published: 4/3/2022 6:38:21 PM
Modified: 4/3/2022 6:37:43 PM

Yikes! In times past as I arose from sleep to greet the light, my morns would start with quick reads from a voice on my clock radio that would teach or amuse, and weekends with hikes to enjoy the close-by Oxbow or some other avian areas of our broad local river. No longer. Now the first thing I do is Wordle. This, I fully admit, is just plain wrong given the state of the world. More on this topic below.

For the nonce let’s relax and begin where Wordle began — as a love story. Josh Wardle, a software engineer with Reddit, had — still has — a partner, Palak Shah, who loves words and games and also, it seems, her honey, Josh. Josh built Wordle for Palak. So sweet.

Ready to play? Google Wordle. There you’ll stare at a column of a half dozen rows of five small blank boxes. Your task: guess the word. The rules: input a five-letter word. A letter in the right place turns that block green. A right letter in the wrong place turns ochre. Completely fails to match? The box turns black or gray. You get a half dozen tries. Shall we press on?

Josh and Palak chose to share Wordle, and on Nov. 1, 2021, 90 folks tried it and on New Years Day, 2021 — 300,000! Then the Times paid Josh real money, $1 million, for the rights, and now millions play. Can you spell viral?

The posts appear daily, not more often. Josh’s list has a total of 2,500 words, and Palak did vouch for every one. Those numbers we cited get weird in a jiffy. Free Dictionary makes a claim that there are 158,390 English words with five letters, most of which you’ve never heard of and are too olde to count. In any event, no one needs 434 years’ worth of Wordle. Scrabble says there are 8,996; other sources, 5,350.

How to start? A player in an early round wants more than one vowel. This month I pinch myself awake with a doily in my abode. Yes, three vowels at least — a point well taken. Hello adieu. This issue has taken up far too large a chunk of our lives.

Now, let’s posit that after some turns, you know some letters. Glory be! Mazel tov! Have guess, will travel. At this point allow me to opine on hints to store on your radar. Heads up!

First, there is no shame in extra turns to solve this issue: although recently hired, you’re on the verge of being fired and you feel both wired and tired like a badly sired horse mired in a muddy horse stall. Also, you’re short on ideas on how to shape, shake and share shale while you shave. That said, have no fears, my dears, about gears hears, rears, tears or wears; and make no sound because you found an extra pound on your scale, a wound to your self-image.

Do’s and don’ts. Do stay sharp, use logic, and savor a nifty guess — that shows your super power. Don’t hurry or be hasty or in a small group, gassy.

Those fifth and sixth moves come quick and can be rough and tough. As you close in on your final trial and error, remember — you can use at least one letter twice. This means your aorta pumps blood while your loony llama needs to visit the woods where he plops a messy gooey poopy doody that’s yucky and gross. And so forth.

Who keeps score of this brain folly? I do. A three is great. Fours are faves. Fives cause gulps and sixes gasps. Fewer than three, a deuce — truly, that’s funny.

Skill plays its part, of course. So does being lucky. Wordle nerds, unite! You have nothing to lose but your pride — and over weeks, maybe seven or eight hours.

But games end. The water boils and as I watch my Lyons tea steep, I thank Wordle for having given me quiet in the midst of chaos, a brief oasis of order.

Sadly, the newsy paper on my house porch or steps with its photo on the front page that shows a plume of smoke, what had been homes, now a field of waste lands — that image and story still await. Which means the time comes again to focus on words like shell, shred, seize, greed, guard, gaffe, sorry, worry, wrath, flame, fight, force, brute, bombs, tanks, child, death and Putin.

Today we share a heavy heart. A human seeks a salve. Come April, our lives are meant to align with the magic of earth. We give thanks for walks by a grove of white birch trees near water that flows, for the robin that pecks for worms below newly grown grass, for views of a flock of birds aloft and the sight of an eagle that soars alone. Our minds hear a music choir and poems in rhyme or freer verse, and we hold tight to hopes for a world that will renew.

Bill Newman, a Northampton-based attorney, hosts a talk radio show on WHMP that is broadcast weekdays at 9 a.m. and rebroadcast at 5 p.m. He writes a monthly column.

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