My covid

For two-plus years, I have been a model of safety, consistency and restraint in the face of the covid-19 pandemic. I was among the first to stock up on supplies for the lockdowns; one of the first to acquire, and rely on, KN95 masks; one of the most cautious in public spaces. I made my family mask up in the most innocuous of situations and maintained a useful wariness everywhere I went. Everyone in my household was vaccinated and boosted at the earliest eligible moment.

We let our guard down when we could—socializing more during the summer 2021 ebb, throwing my son a mask-free bar mitzvah reception in October (negative tests required)—but to this day I am easily identified as the guy with the mask hanging around his neck, putting it back on as soon as appropriate. Never mind that many people are moving on from masks; never mind that in many parts of the country, covid-19 infection rates are fairly low. Better safe than sorry.

Two weeks ago, when we embarked on eight days of outdoor activity in the national parks of the American Southwest, guess who brought his mask everywhere? Me, that’s who. Stuck on a line? Talking to the hotel concierge? Mask up. My younger son joined me, two lonely beacons of caution in an increasingly carefree world. Covid’s still out there, and we weren’t going to be caught off guard.

Well, guess what.

I woke up Saturday morning in Phoenix with a pesky cough. (I also threw my back out in the shower; I don’t believe it was related, although it made things much more interesting.) I had virtually no appetite but chalked it up to the cough and the backache. I flew home uneventfully, masked in my KN95 all the way.

Sunday morning, my cough was worse, and seemed like a sinus infection was brewing, so I popped across the street to my local urgent care. They took my vitals and swabbed my nose. In came the doctor: “What seems to be the problem today?”

“Well, I sometimes get sinus infections, and I have all the signs of one, so here I am.”

“You don’t have a sinus infection,” he said, with just enough levity, “you have covid.”

The ensuing days have been… tiring. I began isolating immediately, although I’d already spent the evening and morning with my family unawares. Urgent care helpfully pescribed me a course of Paxlovid, which Alto pharmacy unhelpfully delivered three hours late, whereupon I headed to my in-laws’ empty house in suburbia to isolate. Too late: on Monday, my wife tested positive, and on Tuesday, my younger son, he of the diligent masking, got it as well. I brought him out of the city to ride out the virus with me.

It’s Wednesday, and the three of us have experienced a full slate of covid symptoms. I will personally remind you, dear reader, that covid-19 is no joke, no matter how many people tell you it’s “just like the flu” and “not a big deal.” We have coped with fever, chills, achiness, congestion, coughs and substantial amounts of fatigue. I think the Paxlovid made a real difference in reducing my viral load, but it still wiped me out, and I’ve had waves of tiredness all day today, my fifth day of symptoms.

“Covid sucks,” my son keeps saying. He has been a model of perseverance and good-naturedness despite (in adult terms) really feeling like shit. I’m on the mend but there’s a ways to go for us all.

Next week, I look forward to leveraging my brief immunity around New York: I’m going to dine out, get a massage, go to WeWork without unease. But I’ll still have my mask around my neck, ready to wear. Because if the last thing I wanted was to get covid-19, the last thing I want going forward is to get it again.

Sedecordle is the best -rdle

You’ve been playing Wordle the past few months, haven’t you? Who hasn’t? It’s a great little game, a couple of minutes of diversion, deep thought and great satisfaction. I play it almost every day.

To everyone’s delight, Wordle quickly spawned knock-offs, all in the open-source, free-to-play spirit of the original. I play a bunch of them. There are all sorts of variants, from words to maps to songs to movie stills. They all have their charms, and the internet is a little more fun as a result.

As someone who likes word puzzles, I’ve spent most of my -rdle gaming time on the letter games, espeically the spin-offs. Wordle begat Dordle, which is two wordles solved simultaneously; that led to Quordle, and the multiplying went from there: eight, sixteen, thirty-two, sixty-four. Many of them even use the same codebase.

You can play them in order, which is fun, or you can just hit the best ones: Wordle, the original, and Sedecordle.

Wordle is a brain teaser, great for all the well-documented reasons. Sedecordle is a puzzle: 16 words, 22 total guesses, each attempt painting in different parts of each grid. It is part word search, part crossword and part jigsaw puzzle, requiring dexterity and clever construction to find every word in time. It takes a few more minutes than Wordle, but like any good word game, the satisfaction that comes from completing it is great.

Sedecordle is inherently solvable, but not easy. I try to crack it in as few as 18 rounds, but I still lose outright maybe once a week. A word with multiple uncommon options (PATCH, MATCH, WATCH) can quickly undermine the day.

The others? All worthy, just not as satisfying. Dordle is a great little trifle, as is Quordle (although their word choices are much more esoteric). The 32- and 64-word options are noble but more of an endurance exercise than a game; they use every single letter, and with patience it’s just a matter of filling in words. Octordle alludes to the promises of Sedecordle, but the eight word grid is not as compelling as sixteen.

So: sedecordle. Enjoy.