Wordle’s acquisition by The New York Times has already stirred up controversy, from broken streaks to accusations the game has become harder. But here’s a big change the NYT isn’t shouting about: it’s altered Wordle’s solutions. As of today, February 15th (game number 241), the New York Times version of Wordle and the original version hosted at powerlanguage.co.uk/wordle have diverged and will now continue forever out of step.
The New York Times told publications “nothing has changed”
Changes to Wordle’s word list by the NYT were spotted last week by a number of sources, including BoingBoing. Although some thought these changes only applied to the words you could guess, it turns out the Times also altered the list of possible solutions. (The Verge made this mistake as well — we regret the error.) This confusion wasn’t helped by the fact that the Times itself was running round telling publications that everything was the same in Wordle land. As NYT comms director Jordan Cohen told The Guardian: “Nothing has changed about the game play.” Which is really not true!
Sure, the game plays the same, but the Times has not only removed rude words like “pussy” and “whore” from possible guesses, it’s also changed the game’s future solutions. And surely for a game all about guessing words this counts as a change to gameplay.
Warning: spoilers for the non-NYT version of Wordle follow.
As BoingBoing notes, words that have been removed from guesses and solutions include “fibre,” “pupal,” “slave,” and “wench.” You can find a list of the original Wordle solutions here and can check that against NYT’s altered list by following these instructions here. A warning: clicking these links will spoil future solutions for you if you scroll too far ahead, so I’ll save you the danger and just say that the Times has skipped today’s original solution (#241) of “agora” and moved to the next day’s (#242), which is [cough-cough-mumble-mumble].
Does all this matter? Well, yes, a little! Because if you’re still playing the original version of Wordle — either because you downloaded the game or you haven’t refreshed your browser since loading the original powerlanguage.co.uk/wordle URL — then you will be out of step with other players. And given so much of the game’s pleasure is social, based on sharing those little emoji solutions, this can be frustrating, as demonstrated by the tweets below:
Aside from these frustrations, some may argue that the Times is being overly sensitive in the words it’s removed: taking out “slave,” “lynch,” and “wench.” Other removals seem more focused on keeping the game accessible: taking out the British spelling of “fibre” and removing “pupal,” presumably because it’s too close to “pupil.”
In a response to one reader asking about the changes, the Times said it had altered the word list to “remove obscure words to keep the puzzle accessible to more people, as well as insensitive or offensive words.” And while it’s certainly true that part of Wordle’s charm is its accessibility, I’d argue that a lovely, assonant word like “agora” — which instantly brings to mind a bustling outdoors meeting space — really didn’t deserve the chop.
Let’s just hope the Times doesn’t meddle any more.