Each year in late capitalism seems to begin with a new fad. This has been pronounced with the pandemic (which I almost wrote as “academic”) keeping people indoors. Last year sea shanties were the rage with many of us finding ourselves humming something about a wellerman during the oddest times. This year’s initial fad seems to be Wordle. In case you’ve been living on the dark side of the moon, Wordle is an online game that is best described as Mastermind with five-letter words. Mastermind, in case you were born after the Republican Party turned evil, is a game where you have six colored pegs that one person sets in a board a sequence of four. The other player can’t see them, but has to try to replicate the colors in the right sequence. At each guess the one who selected the sequence gives the guesser the following information: which pegs are the right color and which pegs were the right color in the right place. (It occurs to me that explaining Mastermind could have been left out and I could’ve just described Wordle. But what’s the fun in that?)
In any case the Wordle player has six chances to guess the right word based on the same clues: the right letter in the wrong place (yellow), or the right letter in the right place (green). The hook is that you can only get one puzzle per day (otherwise many of us would be starving to death and out of work). As a kid, I have to say, I could play Mastermind for hours. I even brought our daughter up on it. There’s something beguiling about trying to figure out what’s in somebody else’s mind. There is a dark side to it, however.
I read a lot. Lately I find that when I’m reading I’m secretly scanning for five-letter words that might be a good initial guess for Wordle. The ideal word has no repeated letters and at least two vowels. You need to narrow down the vowels first because every word has to have one of those six letters, since “y” functions as a vowel. The other day I was thinking “s” has enough lubricant to function as a vowel too, but I digress. Isn’t that the point of Wordle, though? To digress? There’s so much despair in the world with autocrats in power and the planet melting down that we need a little boost. If only I could let myself read normally again, all might be well with the world.