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  • Writer's pictureMarilyn Gardner Woods

Game Days...

Just as 2023 began, I added the New York Times “Spelling Bee,” to my morning routine. It’s a puzzle in which players try to make words from a set of seven unique letters while using the center letter at least once; the main reason being a chance to interact regularly with my oldest grandson, Calvin, a man of few words.

I have played Words with Friends since its inception with his father, also a man of few words and we enjoy back and forth good-natured texting about my serial losses. With Calvin, we religiously text back-and-forth on our progress—the day’s wins or failures. More Genius designations hail from Oregon then from San Diego where I wallow in mediocrity.

I don’t mind being outsmarted. After all, he’s a doctoral candidate in Mathematics at Oregon State. But I find it beyond curious that he was able to score the pangram several days ago when I couldn’t. Pangram being the one, two, or sometimes three words in each day’s combination of seven letters that uses all the letters.

On this day, I struggled off and on until finally at 10 pm, I texted, “What’s the damn pangram?”

At 11 pm, he replied, “Placenta.”

How is it that he knew placenta and me, having birthed two ten-pound baby boys and a sweet little seven-pound girl, didn’t?

I find myself with a routine now as I tackle the spelling bee levels—Good Start, to Moving Up, to Good, Solid, Nice, Great, Amazing and Genius.

My first pass usually results in a dozen words—maybe a few more—moving me from Good to Solid. I leave to read the rest of the paper, check e-mails, put in a load of laundry, or head out for a walk. I return for a second try, often over a bowl of granola and a second cup of coffee. I persevere off and on throughout the day with seven letters carouseling around my head searching for possible combinations, hopefully moving steadily up in the rankings. I am giddy if I reach Genius status.

One of the great things about the “Spelling Bee” that unites us game players is opening the day’s game to find -ed or -ing letters among the seven; you know you’re soaring straight to Genius in record time. Other suffixes like -tion or -ate are helpful to a lesser degree. No such luck in this morning’s game. I thought I had it solved but apparently there’s an -i in the word instead of a -y, the word being lollipop. Darn.

I’m determined. I keep thinking it’s like Wordle which I have played for over two years and still play daily. There has been a learning curve to making a five-letter word in six tries. It’s not unusual for me to score in four tries, sometimes even three these days. (I always start with


Not sure that’s gonna’ happen with the “Spelling Bee.” I’m hopeful, however.

I learned recently that there’s a Queen Bee rank which is awarded when one has surpassed the Genius level finding all the words on that day’s list. I would be beyond satisfied just to be a serial Genius.

As I daydreamed along these lines this morning, back-to-back texts ding on my phone. From Brent, his recent two-way play of j-o-b with j on the triple letter square putting him in the lead of our current game by 100 points. From Calvin, the happy yellow bee wearing his mortar board buzzing around the “I Got Genius” designation. Again.


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