Wordle Whoops 

Monday, May 9th, 2022

As a well-read and intelligent consumer of internet content, you probably know all about Wordle, the simple one-puzzle-per-day word puzzle that took the internet by storm at the end of last year. After rapidly gaining millions of fans, the game was swiftly purchased by the New York Times for at least a million bucks. Not bad! The Times hasn’t changed much about the game, and it remains an enjoyable way to spend a few minutes each day.1

When Josh Wardle created Wordle2, he pre-programmed the entire word list, so that no human input was needed to keep it going. It would appear that thus far, the New York Times has kept the basic system the same. Today, that caused a bit of a problem.

In a statement on its website, the Times warned that some users playing the game Monday “may see an outdated answer that seems closely connected to a major recent news event.”

While the statement didn’t specify which word it was referring to, the publisher confirmed to CNN that it was “fetus.”

The Times said the word was loaded into the game last year — before the publisher acquired it — adding: “When we discovered last week that this particular word would be featured today, we switched it for as many solvers as possible.”

Because of the way Wordle currently works, users who hadn’t updated in the past few days might wind up with the old word. Whoops! I suspect the Times will be updating the game’s backend sooner rather than later, in order to have more powerful editorial control.3


Footnotes:

  1. Though I’ve been playing since last year, I hadn’t written about the game previously. Indeed, prior to today, a search for “wordle” returned only this post, which contains a URL with the word “wordless” in it. I did post this tremendous Wordle-inspired Boston Marathon sign on Instagram, however. ↩︎

  2. How much more perfect could the name “Wordle” be? The answer is none. None more perfect. ↩︎

  3. Also, the game originally had an assortment of British spellings that the New York Times removed to Americanize it for their audience. It’s thus at least a little strange that FETUS was even a solution, given that the too-long British variant of the word is “foetus↩︎


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