Gary Brown: Spelling our lives away

Gary Brown
Gary Brown

"Try 'pentacle,'" my loved one ordered.

She was directing our spelling of words in the free version of the New York Times online "Spelling Bee" puzzle.

And, she was right to try that word. It was a good word. In fact, it was one of the best words possible from our letters − p, l, n, c, a, e, t. I hate it when that happens.

"Pentacle" gave us several points. After all my efforts in thinking up shorter words – pact, peace and place, for example – she found a word that used all seven of the letters that the puzzle presented to us.

She accidentally had stumbled upon a word that was one of the pangrams in that day's puzzle.

"I was just moving letters around and that sounded familiar," she admitted, almost apologetically.

As a wordsmith, I felt like a failure. I didn't even know "pentacle" was a word. I had to look it up.

"Pentacle," an online dictionary repeated, before offering its definition. "A talisman or magical object, typically disk-shaped and inscribed with a pentagram or other figure and used as a symbol of the element of earth."

The definition had part of the word – "agram" – right in it.

She was making a "Spelling Bee" name for herself and I was messing around in mediocrity.

An impressive performance

The "Spelling Bee" people were so impressed that they kicked us out of the puzzle.

Well, not right away. I had the chance to offer up "pact" and "caplet" two more words from an obviously ordinary vocabulary.

I also tried "talcencap."

"That's not a word," my loved one observed, using her sternest "Scrabble" voice of objection.

"It sounds as much like a word as 'pentacle,'" I countered, without much success.

The puzzle's computer claimed it wasn't a valid word on its list.

So, my loved one tried "placate," got a bunch more points, and then the New York Times apparently had enough of us. Their "Spelling Bee" officials pretty much said "Stop!" It was time for us to get some work done around the house. They less than politely reminded me that I had to take out the trash.

What's the point?

Oh, they called our performance "solid" before they shut down our screen.

But, "Solid" is as high a score as you can get if you're a cheapskate. Rightfully so, the New York Times doesn't allow freeloaders to advance any more than that. We can't get to the highest level – "Genius" – no matter how many "pentacle" words we might stumble upon. We aren't even allowed to call our word production "nice," "great" or "amazing."

We were just "solid," and they threw us out of the game. Again. As always. It happens every day.

We could start paying to play "Spelling Bee," I suppose. But, there are so many free word games – "Wordle" and "Word Hurdle" are just two of them – that we don't feel it's necessary.

Besides, playing "Spelling Bee" for the entire day poses a question that goes beyond even wondering when we are going to get any work done if we keep playing games on our phone all day.

Where do we trade in all the points we get from the "Spelling Bee" game and what can we get for them?

Reach Gary at On Twitter: @gbrownREP.

This article originally appeared on The Repository: Gary Brown: Spelling our lives away with NYT bee game