I held out on the Wordle craze for a little bit. I didn’t need yet another reason to stare at a screen, plus I thought it would be a short-lived fad. The assemblage of colored digital blocks on people’s social media posts meant nothing to me and I was okay with that. Not that I don’t love a good word game, I do. It’s just I’m more of a Boggle guy – pencil and paper, hourglass timer and wood letter blocks that are painfully loud when shaken up. Wait, is that why no one ever wants to play with me? Either that or because I dominate and it’s rough being on the wrong end of a word tally.

When I was a kid, I relished the daily Word Jumble game in the comics section of the Reporter Dispatch. Sure, I tip-toed into it with pencil but, before long, me and my ball point pen were as cocky as Apollo Creed. I had to get to it before Mike McAteer, though. He’s my older brother Marty’s friend and he spent a lot of time at our house. I mean, we all love Mike, but he was a total Word Jumble hog. He always finished it too so there wouldn’t even be a scrap left for me to figure out. He’s a professional word wrangler now, a high school English teacher. It figures.

Anyway, once Wordle entered our household this January it was like a convivial virus and we all caught the bug. My daughter Margo partnered up with Grandma and they crush it. I think there is some inter-generational mojo at work producing impressive results day after day. Then Kristen jumped in, but she prefers playing solo. Two brains on one puzzle might get you the answer quicker but Wordling in peace has an undeniable cache.

Soon enough, my son Elliott and I had nothing to contribute to the “Wordle this, Wordle that” dinner conversations, so it seemed I was going to learn what the colored blocks meant after all. They instructed us to pick any 5-letter word to start. With everyone watching, I panicked a little. Do any words have exactly 5 letters? What if I stink at this game and majoring in English was totally pointless?  Fortunately, Elliott was wearing a Champion sweatshirt, so I offered up the word ‘champ,’ an audacious selection for a rookie. The first, fourth and fifth letters were not only in the mystery word but also in the correct squares. Easy-peasy. Clearly the word was ‘Crimp’ and clearly, we were a brilliant father-son duo.

I posted our two-line debut to Facebook to let the accolades roll in, as one does, not fully realizing that some people find that annoying. And others think – well fine, but you have to post your bad scores, too. It’s a whole thing. Anyway, I should have known Elliott would be good since we devour word games together when we’re on flights. Much like his old man, he’s primed for a lifetime of word glory. Or better yet, maybe he can find his way to the invention side of the puzzle. That Wordle nerd is strutting all the way to the bank with millions of New York Times dollars.

In a way I think Wordle may be keeping me off my devices to a degree. If I check my social media too often it increases the chances of somebody blowing it for us. We had to skip one day because a Facebook friend all but told me the word was ‘Moist.’ Seriously, folks, if the word is something like ‘Moist’ just zip it. okay? There is nothing you can say that isn’t a dead giveaway. It was like having Mike McAteer over my shoulder hinting that maybe I ought to start with an M? Maybe it rhymes with ‘hoist’? Maybe it is one of the most maligned words in the English language!

Tim Sullivan

Tim Sullivan is an award-winning columnist who writes about family life and thinks everything is at least a little funny. tim@sullivanfinerugs.com