I feel like I owe all you Wordle fans a blanket apology.
When the daily online word game launched nearly two years ago, I wasn't above making the snide observation or three about how obsessed people were with playing Wordle. I may have grumbled a bit when people began littering my Twitter timeline with their daily Wordle results. (Turns out far worse things were about to happen to Twitter, but that's a story for another time.) And I shook my head at the steady stream of Wordle imitators looking to cash in on what I naturally assumed was a fad.
Look, I didn't get it at the time. I didn't understand. But now I do.
Oh, not because I've gotten into Wordle. Not my cup of team I'm afraid. But I have found my own brain-testing daily quiz that gives me shot at either glory or shame. And I now understand what it's like to have a Wordle-esque ritual as part of your morning routine.
I understand it all, because I've become similarly obsessed with Immaculate Grid.
What is Immaculate Grid
Like Wordle, Immaculate Grid appears once a day online at a set time — 9 a.m. ET in this case. And it's usually the first thing I tackle right after skimming through all the emails that arrived for me overnight. I wouldn't go so far as to say my outlook for the rest of the day hinges upon how I do on Immaculate Grid, but a perfect score makes the sun shine a little bit brighter, the coffee taste a little bit richer and the demands of the day a little less insurmountable.
As Wordle is to wordsmiths, so Immaculate Grid is to sports fans — baseball, in particular, in the game's original format. Immaculate Grid draws its name from the concept of the immaculate inning, where a pitcher retires all three batters on strikeouts, throwing no more than nine pitches.
To that end, Immaculate Grid features a 3x3 grid — nine spaces in total — and you've got exactly nine guesses to fill in each space. One false answer, and that dooms your chance at immortality for the next 24 hours.
For the most part, the x- and y-axis of the grid features the logos of Major League Baseball teams, though sometimes Immaculate Grid throws us a curve with categories like "40-plus stolen bases in a season" or ".300 career average." You fill in each individual square with the name of a player who matches the criteria of both the x- and y-axis -- for instance, someone who played for both the Miami Marlins and the Minnesota Twins or someone who was at some point a Toronto Blue Jay but made an all-star team while he was there.
It's a game that rewards the ability to recall seemingly random collections of players, which frankly is half the pleasure in being a sports fan. I may have trouble recalling all the to-dos I promised my wife I'd take care of just an hour ago, but I can recall Los Angeles Dodger lineups of the 1980s with stunning clarity. Immaculate Grid rewards me for that otherwise wasted brain space.
There's an added twist to the game in the form of what Immaculate Grid's creator has dubbed the Rarity Score. For each player you correctly assign to a spot in the grid, you are awarded points based on how frequently other people gave the same answer. The lower the point total, the better your Rarity Score — I try to get mine under 100 each day — so the greater temptation to pick a very obscure player. Of course, that only increases the risk that you're going to guess wrong by avoiding a more obvious choice that would inflate your Rarity Score. its really a fiendish addition to the gameplay.
Why you should play Immaculate Grid
If you prefer other sports to baseball, don't write off Immaculate Grid — it's expanded to other pastimes, most recently adding women's basketball to test your knowledge of WNBA player movement. That joins men's basketball, football, hockey and soccer — the latter of which requires broad knowledge of the top European leagues. Good luck finding your way out of that rabbit hole.
No matter the sport, the appeal of Immaculate Grid is its one-and-done nature. You only get once chance each day to beat the game, so you better make the most of it. And as I said, the temptation to post a low Rarity Score adds to the degree of difficulty in an engaging way.
And so just as Wordle fans take to Twitter with their scores, I'll be crowing about my Immaculate Grid triumphs and lamenting my near misses. I'll be spending my mornings trying to remember who might have put in time with both the Milwaukee Brewers and Baltimore Orioles. And I'll be frightening the neighbors with my whoops of delight when my Rarity Score lands in the single digits.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.