What do the words “robin,” “humor,” and “pleat” all have in common? The answer: they are all previous answers to the popular word game, “Wordle.” The game, which has acquired over 300,000 players in 4 months, started off as a kind gesture from a man to his girlfriend.
Josh Wardle, a software engineer currently residing in Brooklyn, New York, originally created the game for his girlfriend, Palak Shah. Knowing that she loved to play word games such as the New York Times Daily Crossword, Josh created his very own game for Palak. At first, the game was only played by the couple’s family, who soon convinced them that more people would be interested in playing. The name itself comes from Josh’s very own last name, “Wardle.” After creating the game, Josh had compiled a list of approximately 12,000 words, many of which were obscure and extremely difficult to guess. However, after showing the list to Palak, she identified the words she knew and reduced the list to about 2,500 words.
“I think people kind of appreciate that there’s this thing online that’s just fun,” Josh said in an interview. “It’s not trying to do anything shady with your data or your eyeballs. It’s just a game that’s fun.”
So how exactly does the game work? The player has 6 chances to guess a 5 letter word. After starting off by guessing a completely random word, the letters will appear in a specific color. If the letter is green, that means the letter is in the word and is currently in the correct spot in that word. If the letter is yellow, the letter is in the word, but not in that specific spot. If the letter is gray, then the letter is not in the word at all. There is only one word per day and everyone has to guess the same word. Wardle claims that limiting players to one game per day enforces a sense of scarcity, which leaves them wanting more.
Although many people start off their guesses with whatever word comes to mind first, there are a few tips and tricks to solve the puzzle. Players claim that starting with the same word every day helps them to gain an advantage when using words like “tread,” “irate,” or “adieu,” which allow them to eliminate letters and reveal possibly correct ones. Additionally, players often acknowledge that it is very much possible for a letter to appear multiple times in a word. Being aware of which letters have already been used is beneficial as to prevent players from attempting to use a letter that is already grey. Finally, many players use the letter “x” as a placeholder for the letters they do not know, in order to help them visualize it better.
Despite the overwhelming success of the game, it has been facing quite some criticism recently. At the end of January, Wordle was purchased by the New York Times for a price “in the low seven figures.” The New York Times has stated that the game will initially remain free, but they are receiving backlash as players have noticed the game’s increasing difficulty. The puzzle’s most recent solutions seem more difficult than prior to the purchase as players are reporting solving the word in five or six tries, versus their previous three or four attempts. Also, players have noticed that more than one solution to the game exists despite that a primary factor is that the game has only one correct answer per day. Players can only hope that the puzzle remains free for the foreseeable future and that they are actually able to solve the word.
It’s truly incredible to see how a game that started as an intimate gesture turned into such a staple part of many people’s daily routines. As players continue to improve their vocabulary and share their impressive results, Josh Wardle can look back on his creation and see how a word a day has created such an impressive community of people.