Nov 29, 2022 - Technology

Wordle gets more intentional

Illustration of teary-eyed smiling emojis in each Wordle square

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Wordle has an editor now — every day's solution has been programmed by Tracy Bennett, who curates the word list. The result has not made everybody HAPPY (which was Sunday's answer).

Why it matters: Bennett picked themed solutions for the long Thanksgiving weekend. Wednesday's answer was DRIVE; Thursday's was FEAST; and Sunday's was HAPPY.

How it works: Before this month, Wordle solutions were randomly selected from a preset word list.

  • Occasionally, that would cause problems, as when FETUS showed up as a solution during a major national debate over abortion.
  • By programming the solutions, the NYT can avoid such controversy — and, at least in principle, can delight users by timing answers in a felicitous manner.

The big picture: In the wake of Wednesday's themed answer, many puzzlers — including Axios' Kate Marino and Felix Salmon — got FEAST on their first guess.

  • "It felt cheap," says Kate, who felt cheated by the lack of problem-solving.

For the record: Back on November 10, John Farmer, a puzzler in Los Angeles, left a comment on the NYT website.

  • "You don't want to think, Oh, it's Thanksgiving week and Tracy probably picked FEAST today," he wrote.

What they're saying: New York Times spokesperson Jordan Cohen told Axios that there were "two thematic choices" during Thanksgiving week.

  • "While we have not made any decisions about future thematic content, Wordle will continue to be curated to respect the randomness of gameplay every day," he added.
  • "HAPPY was random."

My thought bubble: You can be curated or you can be random, but you can't be both.

By the numbers: In an informal Twitter poll, about 85% of respondents said the themed answers were "too cute by half".

The bottom line: Puzzlers are conservative, and don't like change.

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