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Aisle Seat: Wordle Me Not

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

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,


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.


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


2 comentarios

02 feb 2022

Moving and brilliant piece of writing.

You survived a difficult childhood and perhaps it is that which has made you into the accomplished, creative, and strong woman you are today. By the way, I can’t do The NY Times crossword puzzle! 😫 Wouldn’t even try Wordle! You are my respite. 😘

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02 feb 2022
Contestando a

Thank you so much!!!!!!

Btw, I do the MINI-puzzle, NOT the hard one!

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