I am a Genius. The New York Times Says So.

Is tidydame a word? It should be. Are you listening, all you Marie Kondo acolytes? Petition the Oxford English Dictionary so I can maintain my genius status.

For the uninitiated, I’m talking about Spelling Bee, the daily New York Times brain teaser, which for me serves the vital function of mental status barometer. If I may brag, even though I know some sizable proportion of you will find my telling this obnoxious, I reach Genius level – and get the pangram- almost every single day. (In this instance, a pangram is a word that uses all seven letters in the game.) How do I manage this feat? A lifetime of training, mainly via crossword puzzles. Epee, anyone? How’s about alar?

Also… I have no life! Okay, I exaggerate. But I am in possession of the bandwidth to play this farkakta (Yiddish for ridiculous) game all day long. Here I do not exaggerate. The day’s seven letters swirl around in my brain – and occasionally make it all the way to my mouth; yes, I sometimes talk to myself- throughout the day. Sometimes I manage to banish them but, like an annoying colleague, they refuse to leave my consciousness. Just a few short hours ago, after a brief early morning battle of the letters, I turned off my phone and got comfy for a return to dreamland and smack! Today’s pangram whacked me over the head, forcing me to turn my phone back on so I could execute today’s entry. (Yes, I was forced by the Spelling Bee police, who arrived at my door, pencils and an old hard copy of Webster’s in hand.)

In truth, I need those swirling letters. They serve as the test of my continuing ability to live my life as a fully – well, fully may be too much to ask for, I’ll settle for mostly – functional human being. I’m dancing around the subject so here goes: Spelling Bee is my daily dementia test, with the mini crossword in the co-star role. I like Wordle too but that one doesn’t feel test-worthy to me.

Perhaps the most important part of the test is the “yesterday” button, which takes you to the list of all the eligible words from the previous days’s test, I mean game. But no, achieving Genius level isn’t enough. The number of missed words is what matters and what those words are counts even more. If I’ve never heard of the words I’ve missed, so what? But if they’re familiar words that I should have gotten but didn’t, it’s worry time. Light bulb: I should chart the number of missed familiar words every day so I can track the trend and then what? Diagnose myself with dementia? This is starting to feel a little neurotic, even for me.

Most of my friends have already diagnosed themselves with dementia. Seriously. A pal once called me in a panic because she saw Ashton Kutcher on TV and for the life of her couldn’t remember his first wife’s name. She made me swear not to tell her, and three days later I answered the phone and heard a jubilant voice cry “Demi Moore.” I don’t think I’d ever heard her so happy.

I shared my concerns with my shrink and he said he’d have a word with my neurologist about some neuropsych testing. But, I asked, if I am experiencing some form of dementia, what’s the point of knowing if there’s no treatment? He assured me there was something available for Parkinson’s related mental decline but I foolishly did not ask for more details. If it turns out that not much can be done, I plan to pass on the testing.

I’m relatively okay, cognitively, for the moment. I do believe my lapses are more frequent and severe than those of my friends who are experiencing some of the same symptoms, probably due to normal aging. They’re fortunate enough to be free of this nasty chronic illness. Time – and maybe some testing but probably not right now- will tell.


My advice to you: plan something fun this weekend. With someone else if possible. If no one else is available, how about a nice scented bubble bath with Prosecco and some music. I sound authoritative but I’ve never done this in my entire life. Maybe this time I’ll actually take my own advice.

13 thoughts on “I am a Genius. The New York Times Says So.

  1. Andi, Spelling Bee is now my favorite – I go to it first every morning while having breakfast. No more Wordl for me. not a challenge. My 9 year old granddaughter introduced me to Spelling Bee, and we play it together when I am with her. Yes, it is definitely a test of your ability to find the words without going to the hints. Somedays I need them, somedays I don’t. Enjoy!


  2. Sherye

    Fun reading! Reminded me of my Dad. He did the Providence Journal crossword puzzles all the time forever. He also liked to take our names (first and last) and create a personally appropriate phrase using all the letters. I have them saved somewhere…I’ll share them with you if I find them! Definitely clever and genius! xoSherye


  3. Anonymous

    I am a spelling bee player. Somedays Genius with no help; other days help needed. So much better for my psyche than the news. Keep spelling, Andi!


  4. We are on the same path..I play scrabble and a few other games.I’m just a smarty.
    But this LBD dementia is a hard road to travel. Gets lonely too.
    Best wishes from australia. Joan Gye


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