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Diary of a Spelling Bee Fanatic – The New York Times

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Entries for the week of Aug. 15, 2022.
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This is Diary of a Spelling Bee Fanatic, a weekly review of the game that drives me out of my hivemind. In a good way. Sometimes.
Read past Diary entries here, and join the daily discussion in the forum.
Group therapy is on hold until September, when my therapist comes back from what she calls a “continuing education” program for psychologists but should really be called a “We All Go on Vacation at the Same Time Each Year and Leave Our Patients to Fend for Themselves” convention. Mrs. Needleman is also unable to attend because the smartphone she uses to communicate with her dead husband, Harold, has been confiscated as evidence in Gene’s upcoming trial for manslaughter.
While playing on my own, I nickname today’s puzzle the “game of mostly four-letter words.” That is all I can find until I am well into Nice territory.
After a break, I find the pangram — JAVELIN — and some longer words. One of these words is JAVELINA. When JAVELINA is accepted, I am tempted to message Sam Ezersky to ask if JAVELIN actually has a feminine form, but I enjoy maintaining the professional facade that I am a smart person.
Instead, I look it up and, according to Merriam-Webster, a JAVELINA is a “peccary.” My first thought: “Oh no, I’m not falling for that again!” I don’t want to fall into the same trap I fell into last week with “monocot,” so I vow to look up only that one definition and go no further. Luckily, that one click on “peccary” yields this: “Any of several largely nocturnal gregarious American mammals resembling the related pigs.” Close enough for jazz, as the idiom goes.
Thank goodness for INNIE, one of the words that propels me into Great territory. A commenter on the forum mentions that 90 percent of NAVELs — also known as belly buttons — are INNIEs. This seems wildly disproportionate to me, so I look up what makes the umbilical cord form an INNIE or an outie. No, don’t thank me. I do the research so you don’t have to. I am also a glutton for punishment.
I don’t think it will surprise anyone to learn that there is an impressive amount of disagreement on the internet about how a baby winds up with an outie or an INNIE. Some people blame it on the doctors who leave the cut end of the umbilical cord too long, although that is a matter of dispute.
A quick peek at today’s forum indicates that the topics of the day involve, among other things, the game’s exclusion of small, aquatic crustaceans called copepods (probably too scientific) and Octomom (proper noun).
I didn’t think of either, but the suffix -ED keeps me chugging along. In my rush to enter as many words as possible before my brain conks out, I forget a few of the present-tense words.
“You got COMPED, but you didn’t get COMP?” my husband asks incredulously, while looking over my shoulder. Once again, he is wearing his “I Got to Genius Faster Than You” T-shirt. That is an effective psych-out, and I put the game down to get some other work done.
As I file my first crossword column for the week, I get a message from a small group of editors on the Food desk. The gist of their commentary is that “cocotte” is most definitely a word and that they have several of them in the New York Times Cooking kitchen.
This gets my attention because, as far as I remember from my high school French, the word “cocotte” means prostitute.
“Are they lost?” I write back.
“What do you mean, ‘Are they lost?’” the senior editor in the group replies. “We keep them in the cabinet where they belong.”
I try to be casual and hide my growing sense of alarm: “I don’t think Legal would sign off on that.”
“Well, where would you put them?” I can tell from his typing that his patience is waning.
“Anywhere they want, I guess,” I say. It is beginning to occur to me that there may be something missing from this conversation.
The next day, a package from the Food desk arrives. It contains a baking dish with handles and Sam Sifton’s no-recipe recipe for speedy fish chowder, made in a “cocotte,” or Dutch oven.
I’m going to assume they released the prostitutes.
CODEMOPE: A mood that arises because there is a missing semicolon somewhere in your last 600 lines of code and you can’t find it.
This is a quick one. I finish it in one fell swoop, including the pangram, HONEYDEW.
I also try “honeydo,” as in the lists of chores for spouses to do around the house, but the game doesn’t accept it. Curses, foiled by the old “it’s actually two words” trick.
HOWWHY: A question asked by parents who are witnesses to the chaos children can bring, such as duct-taping one’s sibling to the ceiling — not that I would know. It was originally two words, but evolution has found it far more efficient just to ask them together.
“Where was Sam Ezersky brought up?”
“Virginia, I think?” I say sleepily. “Good morning, Mom.”
“Good morning,” she says. I can tell that she’s riled up.
“What’s the problem today?” I ask. “Are the lattes too hot in “Lattecize?”
“Don’t be smart,” my mom says. “Your father is very upset.”
“Those millennials wouldn’t know a good song if it bit them on the nose!” I hear my father bellow from the other room.
“You see what Sam did?” my mother asks. “Your father has been impossible all morning.”
“All morning?” I ask. “It’s 6 a.m.”
“We get up early. Listen, talk to him. Maybe you can calm him down.”
My father gets on the line. “Did I or did I not teach you to do the Lindy Hop when you were little?” he asks.
“Of course you did. It was your favorite dance.”
“Yes! Yes, it was,” he barks. “And today’s Spelling Bee missed a chance to pay respect to the greatest song of all time.”
“It’s nice to see that you’re playing again,” I say. He stopped for a while when he realized that Sam was never going to put the name of his favorite actor, Al Pacino, in the Bee.
“Yeah, I get the whole proper name thing now,” he says begrudgingly. “But this is beyond the pale. I may have to write a strongly worded letter.”
“What’s wrong?”
“He left out the word FLOY!”
“FLOY?” I ask, totally baffled. “What’s a FLOY?”
“Look it up on your Google machine, smarty-pants.”
I look up FLOY, expecting to see nothing.
“It was a wholesome song,” my father shouts as I read, “and we danced to it in a wholesome way.”
Apparently, there are more things in heaven, Earth and Google than are dreamt of in my philosophy. I learn that FLOY, doubled, is part of the name of the 1938 hit song “Flat Foot Floogie (With a Floy Floy)” by Bulee “Slim” Gaillard and Leroy Eliot “Slam” Stewart.
It also appears to be slang for a sexually transmitted infection. And the “flat foot floogie” in the song is apparently a prostitute. I don’t know how I’m going to tell my father about this. It will crush him.
“Dad, I’m sure Sam didn’t mean to leave it out,” I say as soothingly as possible.
“He should apologize!” My dad is still mad, but I can tell that his anger is waning.
“Would it help if I spoke to him?” I ask. “Maybe he never learned about swing.”
“It’s an outrage,” my father grumbles. “But OK.”
I’m not going to bother Sam with a word like FLOY, but my father feels better now that he’s vented.
And I’m taking this one to the grave.
Just between us, Sam: FLOY. My dad will feel so much better.
If finding words that are one letter short of a pangram were an Olympic sport, I would be a gold medalist. The first two words I find are TOUCAN and ACCOUNT.
I thank them both in my victory speech and step onto the highest box to receive my award.
via Giphy.com
TACOCAP: An edible shower cap for tacos, so that when you take a bite, the filling does not come out the other end. With ideas like this, I don’t know why I am not a millionaire by now.
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