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.
The past few days of Wordle have had a different vibe. Seems like those choosing the words are actively seeking uncommon letter combinations in a way that wasn’t happening before. Not sure how I feel about it. 239 5/6— Rachel Ginsberg (@rachelginsberg) February 13, 2022
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.
Just got this explanation from the NYT… pic.twitter.com/0gqHh23Eyi— Michael Slezak (@MikeySlezak) February 14, 2022
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:
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.