A Thousand Days of One Small Pleasure

I poured myself a second cup of coffee and picked up my phone to indulge my guilty morning pleasure–scrolling through Facebook while I become fully awake. Right off the bat, I saw something surprising. A friend had posted the solution to that day’s Wordle puzzle for all the world to see: CLEFT.

I could hardly believe my eyes and not because I never see Wordle “hints” on social media. Accidentally or on purpose, too many people love to comment on their day’s Wordle experience. “Gosh,” they write. “As a teacher (substitute the words hairdresser, horticulturist, plumber, postal worker, attorney, accountant or most any job you can name), I should have guessed this word first thing.” Or “I hate rhyming words, too many choices.” Or “Why don’t I ever remember that ‘y’ might be the only vowel in a word?” I bet these same people just love giving away the ending to a book or movie.

But I’d never seen anyone post the actual winning word. I immediately texted my friend, who for the purposes of this column I’ll call Tammy, though that’s not her real name.

“Did you know you posted today’s Wordle solution on Facebook?” I wrote.

Tammy immediately texted back. “Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!” she replied. (Let me interrupt myself here to say that Tammy is one of the kindest, humblest, least competitive people I know. She’s also a rule follower who knows better than to ruin Wordle for anyone else.) I could almost picture her wringing her hands in dismay. “I was trying out a new way to show my results. I’ll delete it right this second. I’m so, so sorry.”

I texted back. “No worries. It’s not like you gave away the nuclear codes.”

She sent a smiley face in return.

As I was hunting for a date to use this story on my what-column-to-write-when calendar, I stumbled upon the big news that last Friday, March 15, was not only the 2,068th anniversary of the assassination of Julius Caesar–more commonly known as the Ides of March–but also the 1,000th Wordle puzzle. The solution that day? ERUPT, which was kind of disappointing. I was hoping for something relating to the momentous occasion in Ancient Rome. KNIFE, for instance. Or WOUND. BLOOD. DEATH. POWER. All of which are good Wordle starters because they contain two vowels (with only BLOOD repeating a vowel) and acceptable, though not necessarily super-strong, consonants.

The Wordle birthday got lots of good press, and not just in the New York Times, which provides a new Wordle puzzle at midnight seven days a week free to anyone who wants to play. I learned in one story that the best guesses need not be words with lots of vowels, though ADIEU is the most commonly used first word. After that, the most popular starters are STARE, SLATE, AUDIO, RAISE, CRANE, ARISE, IRATE, TRAIN and GREAT.

I don’t have a special first word, though I do tend to lean toward those with at least two vowels. I’m not afraid of U or I or even Y.  I never start with a word that repeats a letter, but other than that I just let ‘er rip. And though I keep a notebook listing all the winning words, I don’t record my starting word.

As time has passed, I’ve gotten better at solving the puzzle. I started playing Wordle in March 2022 and haven’t skipped a single day since. In those two years, some of my fails were ridiculously hard words: PARER, MATEY, MUCKY, CACAO, RUPEE.  I’ve missed several rhyming words, HUNCH most recently because I ran out of tries after BUNCH, LUNCH and MUNCH. I’m embarrassed to admit I missed KAZOO, which is the only musical instrument I can play.

And I know one thing for sure. I’ll never give away the Wordle solution on the day the puzzle appears. I’m certain my friend Tammy won’t either.

(March 23, 2024)