By this point in the pandemic, we’re all looking for something pleasant to distract us — even momentarily — from all the chaos, which may explain why the simple, no-frills game Wordle has become so popular. It’s a web-based puzzle that requires players to guess a new five-letter word every day, in six tries or less, and everyone gets the same word. You may have seen people sharing the gray, green, and yellow square patterns on Twitter, which show how they performed on that day’s Wordle without giving away the solution (more on that in a sec).
According to a lovely New York Times profile of Wordle creator and software engineer Josh Wardle (get it?), he devised the game as a gift for his partner Palak Shah, who loves word games and crossword puzzles. The pair apparently got into the NYT Spelling Bee and daily crossword games in 2020, and Wardle wanted to create a new game that Shah would like. The perceived scarcity of the game — only one puzzle per day — leaves the player wanting more.
Where do I find Wordle?
The game is web-based, so there’s no official app to download (although it’s not for lack of trying by a few copycats). You can play using a mobile or desktop browser; just go to www.powerlanguage.co.uk/wordle/. You have until midnight, when the word resets and a new word is there for you to guess. I often start a game, leave the browser tab open, and come back later as I try to figure out the correct word.
How do I play Wordle?
Everyone has their own strategy for how they approach that first blank grid of squares. Choosing a word that has a lot of vowels as your first guess is a solid plan; once you rule out the various vowels, it narrows the word choices significantly (and no, I am not telling you my secret starting word). Type in your word and hit “Enter.”
Letters that are in the word and are in the correct spot will then turn green, letters that are in the word but in a different spot will be yellow, and letters not in the word of the day will be gray. Note that a green or yellow letter can appear in a word more than once — for example, if you get one green “a,” there could be another “a” somewhere else in the word — but you won’t necessarily know that until you play the next word. And no fake words are allowed — the game will throw you a “Not in word list” message if you try to enter AEIOU, for instance.
In the screenshot below, the keyboard shows letters you’ve guessed wrong (in other words, that are not in the word) in dark gray or black and the letters you haven’t guessed yet in light gray. You’ll know you’ve won when all the letters turn green (and a compliment like “Impressive” appears).
What are these squares everyone is sharing on Twitter?
Originally, Wardle didn’t create a sharing component for the game, but after seeing users on Twitter sharing their results using green, yellow, and black square emojis, he added a share button that lets you copy your results once you’ve completed the game in a way that won’t give away the day’s word to anyone who hasn’t played it yet. So in the grid below, you can see I guessed completely wrong on the first entry, got two correct letters in the right spots on the second guess, and guessed the word correctly on the third try (not bad!).
Anything else I need to know?
There’s a high contrast “color blind” version and a dark mode available; you can toggle them on using the gear symbol in the upper right corner next to the word WORDLE. If you’re really feeling lucky, you can also toggle on “Hard Mode,” which requires you to include any hints in the next word. For instance, in the first screenshot, in hard mode, I would have to include the R, the T, and the O in my third guess (so RADIO wouldn’t have worked there).
It’s worth noting that this display option can be difficult for those who use screen readers online, such as people who have low vision. Developer Cariad Eccleston, founder of antagonist.app, created a way to make your results accessible (h/t to Liam O’Dell for this tip). Paste the results you copied from the Wordle site into the translator at wa11y.co/, and you’ll get a text description of how you did. Here’s today’s description:
Of course, since we’re on the internet, Wordle’s grids have been meme-ified, repurposed for political messaging, and many brands have tried to get in on the game’s popularity. But Wardle told the BBC he has no plans to include ads on the game and isn’t collecting or otherwise doing anything fishy with anyone’s data.
A nice thing on the internet? We deserve it.