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Aisle Seat: Wordle Me Not

Updated: Feb 14

By Naomi Serviss / New York City



I can’t get into Wordle.


Apparently, I’m the only one.


This ubiquitous and addictive


daily word challenge


seems to have freakishly appeared


out of nowhere.


Laser-beaming its way


across myriad social platforms,


scooping up word mavens.


Who wouldn’t welcome


an enticing distraction


from Covid-triggered anxiety?


In the before-times,


Wordle brags would be


communally shared.


Water cooler fodder.


Now players


Facebook post or text their scores.


Giddy with a winner’s high.

Diehard gamers wait nervously


for midnight,


when a fresh new conquest awaits.


The game was created


by software engineer Josh Wardle


late last year.


After feasting ad nauseum


on popular online word games,


Wardle was determined


to out-puzzle the puzzlers.


He did by hatching Wordle, a clueless puzzle.


I can barely complete


the New York Times' crossword puzzle


with clues.


Diving into a fresh one


every day,


gives me a headache.


In November 2021,


the game had 90 players.


In January, more than


2 million word junkies


chased the dragon.

After being kneecapped by Covid


two years ago


(seems longer),


millions are hyper-focused


on any shiny thing


that creates buzz.


Welcome Wordle, what took you so long?


Friends report playing Wordle


is respite


from catastrophic thinking about:


  • Climate Change

  • Unvaccinated covidiots

  • Omicron

  • Our kids

  • Biden’s gaffes

  • Toilet paper…again!

No wonder Wordle


is the latest mood ring.



Until it jumps the shark,


this diversion has legs.


But, for my money, it’s just not appealing.



My mother


was a crossword puzzle fiend.

The Sunday New York Times' was her favorite.


Her weekly ritual


was doing the crossword


in pen.


Sat in a


nondescript, secondhand colonial


living-room corner chair,


sipping Pepsi after Pepsi,


chain-smoking


unfiltered Philip Morris cigarettes.


When brown bits dotted her tongue


after every exhale,


she’d nonchalantly pick off


and flick them.


Lucy’s vocabulary was extensive,


and she knew how to use it.


When angered,


her dramatic theatrics were epic:


“I work my fingers to the bone for you.”


“You’re going to give me a heart attack.”


“I’m always the happy clown.”



Must give her credit.


She did summon


her considerable acting


and directing chops,


which were legion.


She was Lucille Ball Lite,


short red hair to boot.


We lived in


the second-floor apartment


of a carved-up Victorian


with a sizeable porch,

on tree-lined Montgomery Avenue


in Elkins Park,


a coveted Philadelphia suburb.


The landlady, Mrs. Aurora Malfitano,


taught Italian at Cheltenham High School.


She sang opera and was kind to me.


Hired me to sweep the porch weekly


for 50 cents.


I saved up to buy treasures


from the book shop


near the Villager store


on Ashbourne Road.


When we moved to Colonial Apartments,


across from


the Elkins Park train station,


I hoped that apartment would be


the one


in my mother’s eyes.


Wishful thinking.


That old worse-for-wear,


three-floored red brick building


reeked of ancient dust


and a hint of death.


There was a dumbwaiter


across from the mailboxes.


Our second-floor apartment


was a warren of rooms


with two doors.


Thin walls


separated our apartment


from our neighbors.


The middle-aged alcoholic couple


drank and raged nightly.


My brother put


a drinking glass


against our common wall


to better hear


the frightening arguments


and slurred curses.


He laughed unselfconsciously.



I was terrified and ashamed,


hoping Lucy’s bingo game


would soon end.

Games of luck juiced her,


bingo was a thrice-weekly habit.

Her thirst was never quenched.


Lucy was a hard-working


single parent of five,


barely scraping by.


Yet we always had a big color TV.


Layaway.


In one apartment,


she inexplicably


had wall-to-wall carpeting installed.


Her maternal skills were zilch.


Inappropriate behavior was the norm.


Lucy threw raucous parties


attended by


doctors and nurses from work.


She was a medical transcriptionist


for a radiology office


at Philadelphia’s


Broad Street and Olney Avenue.


A crowd of laughing, drinking adults


swelled the small apartment.


They were playing a version of Pin the Tail.


Lucy said it was “Goose the Moose.”


My seven-year-old self was eager to play.


She told me to close my eyes.


“Stick out your finger,” she instructed.


I did.


My digit was guided into a thick goo.

When I opened my eyes,


my mother was holding a jar of Vaseline.


And laughing.


My face crimsoned.


I understood years later.


A different game


required two special silver frogs.


My mother prompted me to flip them over.


I puzzled


over the anatomically correct amphibians.


Bolting to my corner


of the empty bedroom


shared with two sisters and a brother,


I felt flush.


Sucking my right thumb


comforted me for


three more years until I hit double digits.


We all need comforting during this awful time.



Wordle fills the bill for many.




I’m no longer triggered


by the NYT crossword puzzle.


I do my best


and sometimes finish


in record time.


Not bragging, just reporting.



That Mini Puzzle can be a beast.


 






Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com

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