5 LETTERS, 6 GUESSES – THE WORDLE WORLD

I’ve got issues. This whole Wordle thing is NOT good for my evening productivity. But I’m clearly not alone.

The wildly popular word puzzle is plastered all over Twitter and Facebook. Players share cryptic, colored grids that show their performance on that day’s puzzle, without revealing the solution.

They comment politely on the difficulty of that day’s puzzle while boasting quietly, hoping someone notices that they solved it in two or three tries. (If you don’t solve it in six tries, you lose.)

This thing has spread faster than the Omicron variant. It’s crack for word nerds like me. Ask the New York Times. The crossword behemoth (and news organization) bought the rights to Wordle within months of its introduction.

In the shower the other day, I found myself thinking up new starter and second-guess words with lots of vowels.  And I was thrilled to hear this week that an English teacher at Sigsbee Charter School has her students do the puzzle each day.

One official Wordle puzzle is released each day at midnight. But that wasn’t enough for some of us dorks who always preferred an essay test to multiple choice in high school.

Once my people try something like this, we go down the rabbit hole. If we did well on our first attempt, we want a repeat ego boost. And if we screw up the first time, we need to redeem ourselves. We can’t possibly wait another 24 hours to try again.

Happily, we didn’t have to wait for long. Almost immediately, new websites and apps sprung up, offering repeated and unlimited puzzles, exactly the same as Wordle. I’ve bookmarked the websites. I’ve downloaded two apps. I’ve gotten sucked into these puzzles for far longer than I care to admit. And that’s my problem.

For decades I’ve railed aggressively against video games, social media addicts and screen time. My nephews (now 17 and 20) learned a decade ago not to “get Aunt Mandy started” on how video games are destroying society. But is my Wordle compulsion any better than others’ Fortnite obsession? Is it any more defensible than Stan’s online golf game?

No, it’s not. It’s the same damn thing. It’s a time suck, like the vast majority of our online sessions. Honestly. The fact that I’m focused on a word puzzle instead of Fortnite means nothing.

But it IS an interesting sociological study of human behavior and rationale.

We nerds smugly tell ourselves we’re better than those wasteful gamers.We’re spending time on an intellectual pursuit. We’re spelling words, forming words, stimulating our minds, challenging ourselves. Sure, we just spent 2 ½ hours huddled over our phones, thinking of words that start with G and end in O.

But we were DOING something. We were THINKING. We weren’t just shooting enemies on a screen. But we’re idiots. Intellectual snobs. We’re no better than the basement-dwelling gamers we’ve scorned for years.

Wait. Sorry. I take that back. Forgive me for painting us all with the same brush. I’M no better. Surely, some Wordlers are content with one puzzle a day. They do the one puzzle, win or lose, and move on with their lives. 

For me, and I presume for plenty of others, it’s all ego. I get that. I take screenshots of my best scores. What the hell am I doing? NOBODY CARES. When would my Wordle performance ever matter to anyone, including myself?

Ego is a powerful motivator. Humans have an instinctive need to be accepted by our peers, so when we do something well, we want others to know it.

Do you ever watch Jeopardy alone? It’s no fun. A correct answer means nothing if no one’s there to acknowledge it.

It’s the same with Wordle. I play again and again and again (while my freshly washed laundry wrinkles on the couch as I tell myself “one more game.”)

And when I solve the puzzle in two tries instead of five or six, I pat myself on the back and take a screenshot. It’s ridiculous. Absurd. Embarrassing. 

But at least I’m not alone. So I leave you this week with my starting word — adieu.

If you would like to have the Weekly delivered to your mailbox or inbox along with our daily news blast, please subscribe here.

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.