Here are suggestions to help muddle through COVID 19’s stay-at-home isolation.

Scrabble, the venerable crossword game, has become a go-to diversion for my wife, Sandi, and me. Fans for years, we have become really good at it. We play every day, sometimes two games a day. We’ve learned obscure words. We see constructions on the board we might not have seen when we played casually with friends. We’ve sharpened strategies to optimize word point tallies. Our competitive gap has narrowed.

Our play is so good that in the last two weeks our scores tied twice. That is uncommon. We now are in a zone where nearly every game is decided by only a few points, often fewer than 10. Occasionally one of us wins by blowout. A few days ago, Sandi scored the ultimate blowout: In an opening gambit, she used all seven letters for an automatic 50 points, plus a double word score for her word, another 22. From the outset, she was 72 points ahead. No way could I catch up. I had never seen a seven-letter, double word power play like that. She was quite pleased with herself. I, the alleged wordsmith in the family, was appropriately chastened.

Dust off your Scrabble board. Great fun.


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“Where the Crawdads Sing” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2018) is the first novel by Delia Owens, an extraordinarily gifted writer. A zoologist with a PhD in animal behavior, her previous award-winning books were nonfiction works on wildlife and ecology. Her first venture into fiction incorporates her deep knowledge of the natural world, in particular the marshes, swamps and woodlands of North Carolina’s Outer Banks of 60 years ago. The setting -- natural and historical -- is vital to the story of Kya, the “Marsh Girl,” and her coming of age in circumstances that frame new love, grief and loss, misery and joy, character and betrayal, and the ugly clash of culture, race and class.

It’s a love and life story wrapped around a gripping murder mystery. Told in musical, lyrical prose, Kya’s saga is at times heartbreaking, at times radiant. It is at once a paean to a beautiful and mysterious natural world, and the unmasking of savage truths seen through the eyes of an abandoned child. Among the best I’ve read this year; a good escape for this hunker down time.

Our economic impact check from Uncle Sam (aka the U.S. Treasury) arrived a few days ago. But close inspection indicated it did not come from Uncle Sam. There, in the lower left corner in bold black letters was this: Economic Impact Payment. President Donald Trump, suggesting the ego-in-chief in the Oval Office was the check-writer-in-chief. Another misrepresentation at best, a lie at worst.

The names on the checks should have been of congressional lawmakers who got the payment bill passed in record time. They are: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.: House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. The bill originated in the House (as do all spending bills) and the leaders there secured an overwhelming bipartisan “aye” vote. The same bipartisanship prevailed in the Senate, thanks to McConnell and Schumer.

Word is, the “stable genius” twisted a few arms to get his name on the checks. He’s such a small man, such a petty man.

Zaleski retired in 2017 after 30 years as The Forum’s editorial page editor. Contact him at or 701-241-5521 or 701-566-3576