Sunday, February 27, 2022

tha must be caracas

So, do you want to know my Wordle score? I absolutely know that you don't, and as it happens that's just as well, as I've never played it, though if you hang out on Twitter as much as I do it sometimes seems as if that puts me in a pretty small minority. I do have a couple of related anecdotes to share, though.

Firstly, while I've never played Wordle - and note that I have no particular animus towards it, it just doesn't spark my interest - I have played Master Mind, the game of which it is a sort of lexical variant, many times, including quite a lot recently as we bought Nia quite a nice Jaques wooden edition of it a year or two ago (around the same time as we acquired the Genius Square). Materials-wise that is a significant upgrade to the cheap-looking grey plastic of the old edition we had when we were kids; what that edition did have in its favour, though, was the classic exterior box design featuring the supercilious-looking Bond villain guy and his exotic younger lady friend. Do what you will behind your flimsy plastic screen, puny adversary, the picture seemed to say - four different colours, some tricksy red-blue-blue-red shit or just something literally mental like four greens - this guy will have anticipated it already, and when it's his go, despite you clearly seeing him putting two reds and two yellows in, when you have exhausted your hilariously gauche guesses his combination will be revealed to be something like a lotus flower atop a koi carp, a snail crawling along the edge of a straight razor or the faint odour of kumquats. And, moreover, having intellectually humiliated you, he will then leave you to contemplate your disgrace while he heads off to the boudoir for some eye-wateringly athletic tantric sex with his lady friend. 

What I had not realised until one of my Facebook friends casually mentioned it in passing a few weeks ago was that there was a deluxe version of the game with eight colours and five peg-holes (the standard edition has six and four respectively), whose box design featured a similar set-up but with a different, slightly older-looking, seated beardy guy and a similarly exotic lady who appeared to be Indian. You can make up your own "different lady"/"extra hole" jokes if you must; I want no part of it. Anyway, this edition came out in 1975 (the original dates back to 1971) so it's not new, but I was blissfully unaware of it (and, by implication, that I was playing an easier version of the game like some sort of dim-witted child) for over forty-five years. Oh well, never mind.

The other Wordle variant - a successor openly based on it this time, or at least aping its name and scoring graphics - is the amusing Worldle, based around silhouette maps of countries that you have to guess, with escalating scores based on your guess's physical proximity to the correct answer, rather than something more nebulous and coding-intensive like size or shape resemblance. There's a hard-to-hit sweet spot here between too easy (New Zealand came up the other day and I reckon over 99% of people would have got it in one) and too hard (tiny archipelagic nations are inherently very difficult and I failed to get anywhere near the Cape Verde Islands a couple of weeks ago), but occasionally you get one that sparks genuine interest - I spent six guesses fruitlessly circling the Balkans a week or so ago without landing on Serbia. When you do recognise one it's interesting to try to pinpoint what makes it distinctive - in the case of the one below it's the little teardrop-shaped inlet at the top left. If you spend as long looking at maps for fun as I do you'll recognise Lake Maracaibo (technically a narrow-necked brackish tidal bay rather than a lake); all you have to do then is remember which country it's in. As you can see below, I had a choice of two and guessed wrong the first time. Annoyingly, if I'd looked back at this recent-ish post I would have got it, as Venezuela features there as part of an imaginary straight-line journey from and to Brazil.

One other distinctive thing about Venezuela is the south-pointing protrusion in the middle at the bottom. I'm sure you don't need me to, but let me point you to the map here, and the prominent inclusion of North Yorkshire in particular. Now I'll grant you it doesn't have a ruddy great big lake on the north-west corner, but apart from that it's the spitting image, right down to the pendulous dangly bit in the middle. 

Just as with the Sakhalin/Eday thing there is a bit of a difference in scale - notwithstanding North Yorkshire being the largest county in England, Venezuela (the 32nd largest country in the world) is just under 114 times larger by area. While North Yorkshire's southern panhandle contains the city of York and the amusingly-named Sherburn-in-Elmet (previously featured in the amusing placenames list here), Venezuela's is occupied by the the state of Amazonas, lots of wilderness and very few people. 

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