Every morning after playing the online puzzle Wordle, Eleanor Rozance and her parents race to their group text chat to share their results. They needle the person who took the longest to guess the daily five-letter word, while the family member with the best score basks in victory.
But on Wednesday, their friendly competition was thrown for a loop. Rozance, 20, and her parents had gotten puzzles with different answers.
“I was talking about how I don’t like when there was a vowel as the first letter, and neither my mom nor my dad realized what I was talking about because they had a consonant as their first letter,” she said.
Rozance was among scores of people who were surprised this week to find that the popular word-deduction game had started serving them a different answer than their fellow puzzlers. The game’s communal appeal had come partly from the fact that there was only one answer per day, shared by players everywhere. As of Tuesday, there are two potential solutions, depending on which site someone is using.
Luckily for Wordle fans, the mismatch with fellow players is reversible. Refreshing the website where they’re playing the game should sync the puzzle with the updated version.
This week’s confusion arose because the New York Times, which bought Wordle in January for an undisclosed sum in the “low-seven figures,” is using a revised set of answers for players using its host page, nytimes.com/games/wordle/index.html. Anyone using the puzzle’s old website, powerlanguage.co.uk/wordle, are still getting the previous set of answers.
While most players have been redirected to the Times site, people who have not refreshed or reopened the game since the newspaper purchased it may still be using the initial page.
Cue (social media) mayhem.
I’m experiencing a little trauma by the Wordle and NY Times Wordle pages having different answers? How do I know what code to speak in and to whom? This feels chaotic.
A big part of #wordle is lording your linguistic supremacy over other people – er, comparing solutions with friends.@nytimes messed with the word list, and now everyone's charts are different.
Now my 2/6 is not gonna be cool anymore 😔
Twitter being what it is, some people who shared their thoughts there were downright furious at the change.
“Just want to thank the @nytimes for RUINING a fun game my friends and I have been playing,” one player wrote alongside the hashtag #boycottwordle. … “The whole enjoyment of this was to talk to your friends about it.”
There is a strategy to the change. Jordan Cohen, a Times spokesman, said the company is updating the game’s solutions list over time to eliminate “obscure” words — as well as insensitive or offensive ones — and make the puzzle more accessible. The Verge compared the original list of answers and the updated list of answers and found that “AGORA” and “PUPAL” were among the words that the Times had erased.
That kind of analysis is possible because Wordle’s answers are predetermined, with each stored in the website’s code. Designer Owen Yin shared — spoiler warning! — a list of the original game’s answers, and PC Magazine published instructions for finding the solutions to the Times’s version.
Even the original version of Wordle did not include all of the English language’s five-letter words. The game’s creator, software engineer Josh Wardle, previously told the Times that his romantic partner, Palak Shah, had helped whittle down the list from about 12,000 to roughly 2,500 that she considered recognizable. He said he had made the puzzle for her because she loved word games.
A bot tried to ruin Wordle by posting the next day’s answer. Twitter suspended the account.
The free puzzle quickly earned cultural clout after Wardle released it publicly in the fall. Players often post their scores to social media, with gray, yellow and green blocks illustrating how many guesses it took for them to identify the daily word. A lower number of tries may be touted as a success, while an admission of more guesses might be shared with an “embarrassed” emoji.
The ritual may be the latest form of self-soothing as people in the United States cycle through collective hobbies to endure the seemingly endless coronavirus pandemic. Where there was once sourdough baking, Peloton biking and “Tiger King” watching, now there’s Wordle gaming.
Rozance still plans to talk to her parents about Wordle to stay connected while she’s at college in Boulder, Colo. But she’s reluctant to refresh her browser to get the same answers as them.
“I kind of want to hold out and see how long it takes for my site to update if I don’t update it myself,” she said. “But I know that means that we can’t exactly compare our scores anymore.”
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