Sunday, April 14, 2024

‘It should be a tad tricky’: Exploring Wordle at the New York Times

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One small game. Just five letters. Six chances. Lots of feelings.

Wordle, the daily puzzle game, hits its 1000th round on Friday, March 15.

For some, Wordle is a chill way to spend time. For others, it’s a brain workout. Guess the word—it sounds easy, but it’s tricky. How many tries did it take you? Have you figured out the best starting word? Do you play in Hard Mode, where you use letters from your previous guesses?

Wordle’s simple yet competitive nature clicked with players. In just two months after its launch in October 2021, daily users jumped from 90 to around 300,000. Since the New York Times took over Wordle from its creator, Josh Wardle, in January 2022, its player base has grown even more.

There’s strategy behind the scenes, too. The Times carefully picks words and plans the puzzles to keep players engaged.

What happens behind the scenes
Playing Wordle seems straightforward. You go to the website or app, enter a word, and go. But behind the scenes, it’s more complex.

Originally, Josh Wardle chose the words in order. Now, the Times adjusts the list to fit its standards and American spelling. Tracy Bennett, the dedicated editor, makes sure the puzzles make sense and aren’t too easy or too hard.

Bennett plans the puzzles a week ahead, choosing words randomly and checking their meanings. She wants to provide variety in difficulty while keeping it fair.

Feedback from players matters
Players influence Wordle’s development. The Times listens to comments and suggestions to keep the game engaging.

The 1000th puzzle got swapped because it was too dull. Some players didn’t like themed puzzles, so the Times dropped the idea. Player feedback shapes Wordle’s future.

Wordle fits the Times’ plans
Wordle isn’t just a game; it’s part of the Times’ business strategy. It draws people to the Times’ subscription services, combining games and news to keep readers engaged.

Every game in the Times’ collection serves a purpose. Wordle was a game-changer, accelerating the Times’ strategy. They’re even planning an archive so players can revisit old puzzles.

Wordle connects people
Wordle isn’t just about guessing words; it’s about connections. People share their Wordle experiences, bonding over wins and losses. It’s become a daily ritual for many, bringing families and friends together.

For some, like Malia Griggs, Wordle is a way to connect with family, even from a distance. It’s not just a game; it’s a shared experience.

Wordle’s popularity shows the power of simple games to bring people together. It’s more than just guessing letters—it’s about the joy of solving puzzles and sharing moments with others.

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