Here’s what’s behind the Wordle craze

Updated Jan 12, 2022 9:04 a.m. ET

A simple pun is the most recent phenomenon in social media and pop culture: Wordle.

The task is to guess a five-letter word. You have six tries. After each guess, the tiles change color to show which letters are not in the word (grey), which letters are in the word but in the wrong position (yellow), and which are correctly in the word and in the correct position ( green ).

Some people can win in minutes. For some of us, it takes… longer.

Once you’re done, you can tweet how many guesses it took without spoiling the challenge for others. It’s the same word every day for everyone, and you can only play once a day.

The free game was created by software engineer Josh Wardle from New York, who created Wordle – a riff on his name – originally for his partner, Palak Shah, who is a fan of word games. Shah also helped with some of the development.

The app really started to pick up steam in October, and as of Monday it has more than 2.7 million players, Wardle told NPR. morning edition. And Wardle did it without ads or gimmicks. You don’t need to register with your email or give any personal information to play.

“In doing Wordle, I specifically rejected a bunch of stuff that you’re supposed to do for a mobile game,” Wardle told NPR. It deliberately did not include push notifications, allow users to play endlessly, or integrate other tools commonly used today to entice users to play apps for as long as possible.

Wardle said rejecting these engagement cheats might have fueled the game’s popularity after all – “where rejecting some of these things actually drew people to the game because it looks quite innocent and that he just wants you to have fun with it.”

However, the quick attention can be overwhelming.

“It’s going viral, it’s not great to be honest. I feel a sense of responsibility towards the players,” he said. The Guardian. “I feel like I really owe it to them to make things work and make sure everything is working properly.”

But Wardle said he particularly enjoyed the stories about how the game has helped people stay connected.

“They will have a family chat group where they will share their Wordle results with each other,” Wardle told NPR. “And especially during COVID, it’s a way for people to connect with friends and family that they might not otherwise be able to see, and it just provides this really easy way to connect with others.”

Strategy: vowels or consonants?

Facebook fan groups have now sprung up, while many articles and players’ offer their own strategic advice.

Using as many vowels as possible in the first guess is one tactic – “farewell” offers four. Another method is to try to use as many common consonants as possible with a word like “snort”.

The game uses common five-letter words as answers, Wardle told the Time, and it eliminated the possibility of very obscure words that no one would ever guess.

There is also a “hard mode”, where any yellow or green letter must be used in later guesses.

If you guess the word within six tries, the game gives you the opportunity to share your prowess on social media. The numbers in the tweet displayed here, as this reporter eventually found out, mean it was game #203 and I guessed the correct answer on three out of six attempts:

The simplicity, popularity and rarity of the game – with only one chance to play per day – offered copy a lot of opportunities develop their own versions, including with the ability to play unlimited games.

Of course, you can also take some time off after you’re done and try the NPR puzzle instead.

NPR’s Nell Clark contributed to this report.

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