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No, The New York Times did not make Wordle harder

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Wordle’s solutions have been preset since the game first launched

Wordle — the viral daily word guessing game that was recently bought by The New York Times — has been on a tear in the past few days. Brainteasers like “ULTRA,” “ULCER,” and “ALOFT” have appeared, frustrating players, many of whom have taken to Twitter to complain that the game’s new owners are intentionally amping up the difficulty.

But while conspiracy theories abound that the rash of difficult words is a result of the New York Times Games division sitting around with devilish grins, looking to find the most difficult five-letter words in the lexicon, the truth is that The New York Times is innocent of Wordle crimes here.

That’s because Wordle’s solutions don’t include every five-letter word in the English lexicon. As the game’s creator, Josh Wardle, explained in a New York Times interview (before the game was acquired), he had his partner, Palak Shah — for whom the game was originally created as a gift — help whittle down the 12,000 or so possibilities to around 2,500 words that she was familiar with.

It’s that word list that constitutes Wordle’s solution set, and the list is literally baked into the Javascript of the website itself. It’s one of the reasons the game was so easy to save locally before the NYT purchase.

And as a quick comparison between the pre-NYT list of solutions (which can be viewed here, with a HEAVY spoiler warning) and the list of still-viewable solutions on the NYT version of Wordle (you can follow PCMag’s instructions here to view the Javascript list), the game’s new owners haven’t added a single solution — yet, anyway. The main change that the Times made was to remove some words: the game’s new owners have removed some offensive language both from the list of valid guesses for the game (specifically, offensive language and slurs) and from Wardle’s solutions, in addition to removing some more difficult words from the original set (like “AGORA” and “PUPAL”).

But the truth is that Wordle has always had difficult words. TAPIR and REBUS have previous answers, as have PROXY, KNOLL, QUERY, and SIEGE.

Since The New York Times bought Wordle, these have been the solutions:

  • THOSE
  • MOIST
  • SHARD
  • PLEAT
  • ALOFT
  • SKILL
  • ELDER
  • FRAME
  • HUMOR
  • PAUSE
  • ULCER
  • ULTRA
  • ROBIN

Some of those words are indeed trickier ones, but there have been plenty of friendly words in the mix, too, like THOSE, FRAME, and SHARD. And while the recent streak of tough words is definitely a thing (including today’s puzzle, which, I’ll admit, took me all six guesses to solve), it’s not because The New York Times is ruining the game.

Correction February 15th, 7:50am ET: The New York Times has removed from words from Wordle’s original solution set, removing some potentially offensive words, as well as some of the harder and more obscure words from Wardle’s list. This article originally claimed that the company had not altered the list.