On being ... an opportunity to think twice

By Ingrid Sapona 

I’ve never considered myself a glass half full type. But, having found a way to put a positive spin on the current bout of inflation, maybe I am an optimist. (In case you missed it, that last sentence was an example of my new outlook: I’m trying to feel confident these high prices won’t last – in other words, that it’s just a bout of inflation.) 

Friends’ reactions to price increases over the past three or four months have been interesting. At first, other than the price at the pump, it seemed my friends didn’t really even notice the price of things going up. Part of the reason may have been that in January and February, what was of more concern was that some things were hard to get. The grocery stores around here seemed unable to get certain items. For example, for awhile it was hard to find cereal. So, when the shelves were finally refilled, paying $5.29 for a box I could have sworn I paid $3.98 for last time I bought it was surprising, but not jarring. Naturally I bought it – I was happy they had it! 

The first time I really took note of the price of groceries going up was when I wanted some mushrooms. I buy them quite regularly and $2.99/lb has been the going price for a long time. Suddenly I couldn’t find whole mushrooms – cremini or white – for under $3.99/lb! Pork tenderloin is another near-staple for me. Around here it goes on sale often – on a rotating basis from store-to-store – so I never used to pay more than $3.49/lb for it. In March or so I noticed the sale flier price was now $4.99/lb. 

When I realized the prices for mushrooms and pork tenderloin were not returning to “normal”, I began paying attention to other items I typically just tossed into my cart. Hmmm… a bag of Smart Food (cheddar-flavoured popcorn, for those not familiar with the brand) … last summer it was $2.79 but now it’s $3.89. Do I really want it? Well, yes, it is our favourite snack on an afternoon sail. What about that can of hard cider that used to cost $2.95. Now it’s $4.10. Do I really want it? Is it that special? And those cookies that used to cost $1.99 a box that are now $2.79. It was always debatable about whether they’re worth the calories, but at this price, it’s much easier to take a pass on them. And what about that spicy edamame and kale dip I had at a friend’s house. Delish! But $4.99 for 8 oz.! Really? Well, maybe as a special treat, I rationalized to myself as I put it in my cart. 

I know, considering each item sounds a bit over the top, not to mention time consuming. But so what if it takes a bit longer to shop? Paying more attention to what I buy – and what I’m willing to pay for something – is a good thing, I think. No, it doesn’t necessarily translate into healthier food choices – or even noticeable savings. But for sure there’s nothing wrong with being more mindful about what I buy. So now, though I shake my head every time I look at my grocery bill, rather than get mad, I acknowledge how tremendously lucky I am that food is readily available to me and that I have the means to pay for it. I realize that’s not the reality for untold millions throughout the world. 

As I mentioned, the one cost increase many friends have noticed – and are feeling – is the price at the pump. Regular gas in the Toronto area is about CDN $1.98/litre, which translates to about US $5.85/gallon. So, it’s no wonder that a friend, who I’ve never known to so much as comment on the price of things, complained this week after it cost him $120 to fill up his Audi. It was only in January that a fill up cost him a mere $85. I think I’d complain too... That said, any time a friend who doesn’t have to make a daily commute complains to me about the cost of a fill up, I remind them that they can save money – and the planet – by simply driving less. I’m not sure they appreciate my encouraging them to see the price as reason to assess how badly they want to drive someplace, but that’s a calculation I go through when I’m thinking about heading out somewhere in the car. 

What about you? How are you coping with prices going up and up and up? Have you changed what you buy? Have you switched to cheaper alternatives? Are you trying to get buy with less? Or maybe you’re like me and continually reassessing what constitutes a splurge? 

© 2022 Ingrid Sapona


On being ... Wordle wise?

By Ingrid Sapona

I play Wordle pretty much every day. I do the one in the New York Times. To be honest, I’m glad they limit you to one game per day (unlike some on-line versions), otherwise I might be confessing to an addiction instead of mere infatuation. 

Wordle hasn’t been around for too long. I remember reading about it when the Times bought it this past January. It was created by Josh Wardle, a Welsh software engineer. (Clearly, the game’s name is a play on his name. But, if he’d have asked me, I’d have suggested the name be only five letters: Wordl. Anyway, who am I to argue with a guy who made millions on something he started for fun!) 

When I first heard about it, I assumed it was basically a digital version of Jotto – a game I used to enjoy as a kid. Jotto is played with two people and the object of it is to figure out the secret five letter word your opponent wrote down. 

In Jotto, each player takes a turn guessing their opponent’s word. If the word you guess is your opponent’s secret word, you win. But, if the word you guess isn’t the secret word, your opponent tells you how many letters in your guess is are in their secret word. Your opponent doesn’t specify which letter(s) from your guess are in their secret word, however. So, Jotto is as much about narrowing down the letters in your opponent’s word as it is about figuring out what the secret word is once you have honed in on the letters. 

So, calling on my Jotto expertise, I started playing Wordle. Using the Jotto strategy of first eliminating letters, opening guesses might look something like this:


Pretty clever, huh? Well, that works ok in Jotto because a Jotto game could go as many as 35 guesses. If you use this technique in Wordle, however, you soon realize the genius/cruelty of only getting six tries. 

When I discovered my sister did the Times Wordle too, we compared strategies. She’s convinced the key is to nailing down the vowels early on. To do this, she uses a modified Jotto strategy, starting with two words that are vowel rich. For example, she likes starting with audio – and why not – I has four vowels. I liked that method too, though I tended to start with aerie. (Only three vowels, but, arguably the most common ones.) She was delighted when I mentioned aerie, as she realized that between aerie and audio, she’d hit all the vowels. 

After a few weeks I found starting with the same words too uncreative. So, I started beginning with totally random words. I chose a word I saw in that morning’s NY Times newsletter. To me it was more fun than trying to strategize about what vowels might be in the word. When I tried to convince my sister to try starting with different words every day, she wouldn’t hear of it. Oh well… to each her own, I thought. 

About a month ago I was talking to a friend about Wordle and the different strategies I’d tried. Before telling me his method, he asked how successful I’ve been at solving the game. He was unimpressed when I told him I usually get it in four or five. He said he usually gets it in three – or sometimes four. Naturally, I asked how. 

He starts with a random word. If that guess yields any letters in that day’s Wordle, he makes sure his next guess includes those letters. And, if a letter is correct but in the wrong place, he won’t use it in that place again. I asked him to show me and we started a new game as follows: 


So, after GAMED we kept the A but moved the E in our second guess. Ok, then what? I asked. He said he sits there and looks at it and just thinks about it. And thinks about it… It soon became clear I’m not as patient as he is. Antsy, I suggested canoe. Then, continuing with his method, we quickly finished as follows:



I was pleased with the win but he was frustrated it took us five tries! Jeesh... 

He succeeded in making me a convert to his method though. And, even if my results aren’t always a brag-worthy three or four, his method has focused me more on words, which I love. Now I pay more attention to letter combinations and to how words are constructed. Here’s a good example:


Obviously, my first guess was lucky, yielding three letters. But after that, I figured it’s likely the S and H were together. From there, it was just a question of whether they were at the start or end of the word… 

What about you? Are you a Wordle enthusiast? Have you tried a variety of strategies? If so, do you have a particular approach you like best? Do you brag to friends and family about your results? 

If you’re one of the few who haven’t played it, perhaps now you’ll give it a try.  I’ll bet that before you know it, you’ll be doing it daily just to get that little buzz from solving it – regardless of whether your efforts yield a Magnificent, Impressive, Splendid, or even just a reassuring Whew. 

© 2022 Ingrid Sapona