Gimme a Smile: Enjoy the charm of Wordle

By Peggy McKee Barnhill

I’ve jumped onto the Wordle bandwagon.

You might know this little online game, where you have to guess a five-letter word in six tries by swapping out letters. Simple, elegant, and irresistible. There’s one puzzle a day, so you don’t get sucked into a Wordle vortex only to emerge hours later realizing that you’ve typed out every five-letter word you know while accomplishing nothing else. There’s also a mechanism to share your prowess on social media. Your share doesn’t reveal the word, just how quickly you were able to guess it. You can become part of the whole Wordle community. Everyone gets the same word to guess, and everyone has their own strategy.

One strategy is to use the same opening word every time. The word “adieu” is good because it hits four vowels in one word. Or you can vary things up by using yesterday’s word to start today’s puzzle. It’s bound to be wrong, but it can be a fun place to start. Another strategy is to identify a word bank of words that cover all the common letters in the alphabet. Wheel of Fortune’s “R, S, T, L, N, E” is a great place to start. Four strategically chosen words can cover 20 different letters. The downside to this strategy is that you’re unlikely to get the word before your fifth try. Remember that “share” function? That’s all about bragging rights, and getting the word on the fifth or sixth try is nothing to brag about.

There are a number of Wordle knockoffs. I’ve gotten hooked on Quordle, which offers four different five-letter words at the same time, to be guessed in nine tries. I found it very intimidating at first, but once I got over my initial hesitation I was drawn in by the challenge. The word bank strategy works well with Quordle, since you’re dealing with four different words simultaneously. Like Wordle, Quordle loads one puzzle a day, but it also offers a “Practice” feature. You can practice all day long. I’ve become an addict.

You have to understand that I’m a novice when it comes to online games, although I grew up playing word games. I blame the Children’s Television Workshop. I was a little too old to enjoy “Sesame Street” when it first came out, but the “Electric Company”was my speed. One memorable skit featured a lawyer proclaiming (in song), “Your rich uncle died and left you all his M____” What could it be? Nope, not money. Spoiler Alert: turns out it was marshmallows. My sister and I picked up that tune and played a guessing game at bedtime, putting in different letters while the other one guessed the word. This was one of our many PIB games (play in bed). “Go to sleep right now, I mean it,” was a frequent parental phrase in our house.

As we got older, we gravitated to Boggle, and my sister came into her own. To this day she is the one to beat in Boggle. We’ve added Bananagrams to our repertoire, so there’s always a word game to play at family get-togethers.

As for me, I learned how to use the app store on my phone just this past fall. I downloaded two online games, one of which was Wordscapes. For the uninitiated, this game offers a crossword grid and a circle of six or seven letters to construct words. There are various sidebar incentives that I don’t understand, except for the one where you earn coins for thinking of words that aren’t in the crossword. That’s my goal when I play Wordscapes—to put together as many extra words as I can, to see my coin total increase. This game is highly addictive — so much so that I decided to give it up for Lent.

Little known fact about Lent—when it comes to sacrifices, Sundays don’t count. The forty days of Lent exclude all the Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Theologically, every Sunday is a mini-Easter. Practically, that means I get to play Wordscapes on Sunday. All day long. Then when Monday comes, I don’t need to feel deprived. I can play Wordle, or Quordle, or a rousing game of Bananagrams. Viva the word games!

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother, and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life.

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