Home-Made Wordle

Dear Liza,

It seems that most of the grown-ups in the country are playing an on-line game called Wordle. It has become so popular that Mr. Wardle, who invented the game, has sold it to the New York Times newspaper for over a million dollars.

When you play Wordle, you have six chances to figure out a five letter word. The game gives you clues as to which of your guessed letters are in the right place, the wrong place, or not in the answer at all. Most days, I can get the answer in four or five tries.

The problem is, there is only ONE official Wordle puzzle a day.

We wanted MORE!! So we started doing Wordles on paper.

This is how we play. One person comes up with a five letter word, which they keep secret. The other person makes their first guess, and is given their clues. A dot means “this letter is in the word, but not in this place”. A letter gone over in heavy writing means “this letter is in the right place.” If the letter has no mark, it isn’t in the word at all.

Sometimes the word comes easily, and other times it feels like there is no way you are ever going to get it. And because you have to remember the word you invented and give accurate clues, it is a good brain exercise for both players.

The on-line game has been a fun way to start our mornings, and we play our on-paper version at lunchtime.

Happy brain-gaming!


Grandma Judy

Playing with Words

Dear Liza,

I made a new game for your cousins the other day. Since they are very clever readers and like unusual things, I am calling the game “Recondite Confabulations” or “Abstruse Colloquy”. In more common language, it could be called “Weird Old Words”.

It is basically a series of flash cards, with a modern word on one side and three old fashioned, or archaic, synonyms on the other.

For example, Food is also vittles, entree, or sustenance. Honest is also forthright, scrupulous, and above board.

I included words for Halloween season, like Monster (hellion, monstrosity, and lusus naturae) and words kids use a lot, like Hungry, Tired, and School. They were easy to find by going to the online Thesaurus site and choosing the most obscure words. It was fun!

And to make it pretty and seasonal, I made the cards look like autumn leaves. Lots of painting! But I really like how they turned out.

I hope you have fun playing with words, too. I will make you a game, if you like.


Grandma Judy

Liza Games

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Drawing in the Journal at Steinbeck Center

It is always fun seeing what Liza is up to. Like you and many of your friends, she enjoys Pokemon cartoons and toys, likes to wear unicorn clothes and fairy wings, and she even enjoys going on walking and bussing adventures with me.

And, like you guys, she makes up her own games. When our friend Alicia Justice gave her a “surprise ball” filled with small toys, she used them to create a game. The New Year’s noisemaker became the hockey stick with which she knocked small flies and butterflies through a ‘goal’ made of candle holders.

Noisemaker Hockey?

She likes (and is good at!) making pancakes.

Making pancakes!

She found a project for a bird feeder in Highlights Magazine, involving pine cones, peanut butter and oatmeal. That worked out nicely.

Feeding the birds

She also likes to make words, though she needs a little help. We played with my Bananagrams game, making words about family and geometry.


Since she has just started reading, Mr. Steinbeck’s quotes on rocks around Salinas are fair game. This one, at Central Park, says, “I’ve seen a look in dog’s eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that dogs think humans are nuts.” It took two times through until she realized it was funny, but then she laughed and laughed. “Dogs think humans are nuts!” she kept chuckling to herself.

“Dogs think humans are nuts!” Hee Hee…

But her most complex, repeated game is the one we play at the Steinbeck Center. It spans three rooms, three books, and gets better every time we play it. She opens the curtains at the labor camp in the Grapes of Wrath room, and talks with the children there. “Would you like to come to my party?” she asks.

“Will you come to my party?”

Then we go to the room set up with the Pipe House from Sweet Thursday and pretend to decorate. The most fun is in the Sea of Cortez room, where we get in the small boat and set off, catching fish for the party! Tuna, sharks, and sardines are all fair game, and brought into that small boat. It gets a little harrowing.

Off to catch dinner!

On this visit, one of the skeletons set up for Dia de los Muertos sat in the Pipe House, beside a small brazier. Liza improvised by cooking the make believe fish over the fire. The game ends when all the children come, we eat and play, and they go home to be with their families.

Cooking for friends

I love playing games with Liza, letting her make the rules and figure things out. I think it makes us both smarter.


Grandma Judy