A few months ago, when somebody introduced me to the word game called Wordle, I embraced it the way many Republicans fall head over heels for pathological liars. For those unfamiliar with it, Wordle combines the element of chance with the ability to detect potential words embedded in scrambled letter combinations. A player competes against an unknown adversary, who has secretly selected a specific five-letter word as choice of the day. The player ventures his own word, and through various color clues, learns if any of its letters happen to be in the secret word, and, if so, whether they’re positioned properly or need to be moved around.
The player is successful if the secret word is revealed in no more than six tries. The starting word chosen by players is critically important to achieving success. On really good days, three of the five letters of the word selected by Elaine and me, dedicated collaborators, appear somewhere in the searched-for word. Not infrequently, however, our word contains no helpful letters, bringing on Panic City.
Some players, our son Alan included, rely always on the same beginning word. I prefer coming up with a themed word appropriate to the day. For example, if the weather forecast isn’t reassuring, I’ll try something like “rainy”. That’s pretty bland, uncharacteristic of most of our firsties. Sometimes, though, the theme challenges my available list of five-letter words. When a local politician was tried on charges of bribery, an obvious word choice was “crook”, but, with its two O’s, that seemed risky. “Thief” seemed more promising; even, pushing things a bit, so did “viper.” Symbolism can be helpful.
My real problem with Wordle, as I should have expected, commenced with the start of the major league baseball season. Those who know me have long realized that I’m a thoroughly unreasonable fan, light years beyond hope of redemption. As Elaine has remarked, the only silencer of my snarkiness would be if my team compiled a perfect 162-0 record for the season. My unvarying answer: don’t bet on it. I might find the margins of victory unsatisfactory. My negativity obviously knows no limits.
A brief attitudinal overview: My teams never lose because of being outplayed by opponents. Rather, they lose because of ineptitude, bad coaching, or lack of committed effort. Believe me, that’s not an inclusive list. Often, the team as a whole deserves excoriation. Other times, responsibility belongs to a single undertalented individual, like that guy who made three errors in a game a few nights ago. Last season, this klutz terrified me every time he circled underneath a pop-up. It was even money whether he caught the ball or was beaned by it. Why wasn’t he still playing whiffle ball or “T” ball instead of being in the majors?
What qualifies me as so astute a critic is that I never really played baseball myself. No fields existed anywhere close to where I lived. My competitive game venue was a narrow city street, where my friends and I played wireball, boxball, wallball, and other travesties of competition that allowed us to be aggressive with each other. If there were major league competitions in those sports, I’d probably react to them with more equanimity, knowing what they entailed. But there’s no expertise sharper than that developed in an armchair.
Anyway, I’ve become victim of a sleep-interrupting habit lately: I wake up at some uncivilized hour to find myself searching for a Wordle starter word that encapsulates the latest act in the Phillies Follies. Obviously, before bedtime features of the latest fiasco had been churning through my mind. There are easier challenges to undertake at uncivilized hours than trying to corral reaction to frustration in a single, scathing five-letter word--noun or verb or whatever. I’m tormented by the realization that the analytic word is hiding somewhere, and I must find it. At 4 A.M., no less. So I audition words like “inept,” “clown,” “fools” (which I drop because of the double O). I’m stymied for more evocative, more psyche-cleansing possibilities, but in contrast to my targeted team, I won’t--I can’t--give up. Sometimes, in frustration, I briefly abandon that search for focusing on Wordle words describing me. For starters, there are “crank,” “meany,” “rebel,” “jiber.” On first encountering the game, I had no reason to anticipate how much I’d learn about myself. Don’t let the implications of that possibility turn you off. Try the game, but keep it under control--better control, certainly, than their manager exercises over the Phillies.