At break time at my workplace, like many these days I guess, someone mentioned Wordle, in this case with a buoyant air.

“I just played it this week for the first time,” my colleague said. “It’s fun. Today I got the word in two tries.”

“Two tries?” I said. “How? You can tell me, I already played. I got it in three, which I thought was pretty good till now.”

“Well,” she said, “I started with ‘doubt’, and the ‘b’ was correct but somewhere else, and the ‘o’ and ‘t’ were in the right places, so I figured ‘robot’.”

One of the things I like about Wordle is its prompting of phrases like “so I figured ‘robot’.”

Another is that it gives people a reason to feel good about themselves for no great reason, which itself is great.

“Did you post it?” I asked. I know my colleague is, like me, semi-active on Facebook. “Two is pretty rare.”

“No,” she said. “Should I? I mean, it’s mostly luck. And it was two tries, not one.”

“One isn’t better than two,” I said. “Unless it indicates paranormal abilities. But unless you do it every day, you’re probably not clairvoyant, and then one is complete luck. Two is partly luck, but also means you had a small amount of data and used it with ingenuity, better than I did, or probably any of your friends, so you should definitely crow about it.

“Have fun with it. I did two once and my friends sure heard about it. You know what they say, if you don’t blow your own horn there’s no music. So give us a tune.”

A different direction would have been if she decided to stop playing entirely, having done so well so soon. As an undergraduate at Cornell I had a friend who did this to an extreme with backgammon.

WIth a minimum of interest he agreed to be taught the game by another friend of ours, a great enthusiast. They sat down to play and my friend the novice began clearing the board (the goal of the game) with astonishing speed. The expert was incredulous.

“This can’t be happening. He’s going to gammon me,” she said, which means getting all one’s pieces off the board before the opponent removes a single one, maybe a million-to-one shot in one’s first game.

And that’s exactly what happened.

“Come on,” the expert said in the aftermath, stunned and agitated. “We’ll play again,” she said, frantically re-setting the board.

“No way,” the novice said, leaning back in his chair.

“What do you mean?” she said.

“I’ll never play this game again in my life,” he said. “Why should I?”

And he never did.

Games can reveal a lot about the players. Also as an undergraduate at Cornell I had a friend who, like me, was born in Bushwick back when it was a place of people who didn’t go to college.

Freddy and I had work-study jobs at the Commons Coffeehouse in Anabel Taylor Hall, the religious studies building at Cornell. We felt comfortable there for its tolerance of incongruous individuals. It was also the only place on campus you could get espresso back then, with a massive machine from Milan that reminded us of places back home where neighborhood guys hung out.

But neighborhood guys in Brooklyn didn’t do the New York Times crossword puzzle, like many Commons denizens did, and Freddy brooded about that one day.

“What is it with these college people?” he said, glaring at the gathered. “Even when they’re not in class they take tests they give themselves.”

“Maybe that’s why they’re in college in the first place,” I said.

He considered. “I can’t decide whether that’s a tautology or an actual insight,” he said.

“Now it’s you giving tests, isn’t it?”

He considered again. “Shut up,” he said, in as many words, though not those exact ones.

As it happened, Freddy was an avid backgammon player, though he would only play for stakes. Backgammon is largely a betting game, with a doubling cube as part of the equipment, which multiplies the stakes in a fashion that can quickly become severe.

If an opponent wouldn’t play for money Freddy would insist on playing for “hoochy-koos,” which meant standing on a chair, putting one hand on your hip and the other on the side of your head and exclaiming “hoochy-koo” in falsetto as you stuck out one hip, then the other. This was quite a sight anytime, but especially if the betting cube dictated 32 renditions, or 64.

It could bring a halt to focusing on crosswords, which was maybe part of Freddy’s fun. Games can be played on multiple levels with many revealing results.

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