HUNT COLUMN: Down the puzzle rabbit hole

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, March 1, 2023

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Raise your hand if you participate in the Wordle craze! That’s quite a few of you, I’ll bet. 

Its creator, a Welsh gent named Josh Wardle, made his word game public in 2021 and sold it to the New York Times in early 2022 for a whopping seven figures. It requires a player to figure out one five-letter word each day with everyone everywhere playing the same word. People like to share their results on social media and compete with their friends. And woe unto you if you give any specifics away to your friends who haven’t played yet on any given day.

Wordle is a fun, usually quick way to exercise your brain a little. My 86-year-old mother feels pretty good about her mental acuity because she hardly ever loses at Wordle.

Because of Wordle’s popularity, imitators and innovators abound. The Folger Shakespeare Library’s website offers Prattle, the same game but using only words that Shakespeare used. Though most of its words are simple, everyday words, Prattle also works in some proper names from the plays and a few archaic terms. It will reject any word you type in that Shakespeare never used (such as “sonar”), so you don’t waste turns on anachronisms like that.

Being an English teacher and word lover, you know I had to adopt Prattle into my daily puzzle routine. Wordle and Prattle take very little time out of my day. But my enjoyment of them has led to harder drugs, and now I confess to you the extent of my daily word puzzle addiction.

Next came Quordle, which is Wordle on steroids. You have nine chances to solve FOUR five-letter words in the Wordle fashion. You can find a daily Quordle challenge on the Merriam-Webster website. While there, I discovered Blossom, which asks you to make twelve words out of seven proffered letters, but you must use the center letter in every word. The trick is to come up with the longest words you can to get the most points. That makes it a little different from Spelling Bee, where the point is to make as many words as you can, long and short, out of the given letters. Spelling Bee is also owned by the New York Times, but you must be a subscriber to play, unlike Wordle, which the NYT has kept free.

On top of those, I’ve also been introduced to Word Hurdle games on Every day you can find four, five, and six letter Wordle-like puzzles as well as something they call Phrazle, a multi-word puzzle (in the style of Wheel of Fortune) but played like Wordle.

As if all of the above isn’t already too much, I receive a crossword puzzle email every day. But let’s be real: some days are too busy to get to all of these games I enjoy. 

However, give me a free morning and a big cup of coffee, and down the puzzle rabbit hole I go. It IS a good way to wake up your brain. Science tells us that puzzles and reading are excellent ways to keep an aging brain sharp. So there.

If this puzzle report has introduced you to some new games you will enjoy, you’re welcome. Or I’m really sorry — whichever best applies. Did I mention I also really love Sudoku?