Five Letters, Six Tries… The World of Wordle

Wordle has become a cultural sensation in recent weeks.

Courtesy of Wordle

Wordle has become a cultural sensation in recent weeks.

Zoë Kim, Staff Writer

Mount. Wince. Prick. Robot. Solar. Panic. Tangy.

All of these are five-letter words, which one would have seen before if they played Wordle. If you haven’t heard of it, Wordle is a word puzzle recently bought by the New York Times. Within six months, it became one of the biggest fads of this year, attracting participation worldwide. 

It all began with Josh Wardle, an engineer from Brooklyn who created Wordle in 2021 as an act of love for his partner Palak Shah, who loved word puzzles. He only wished to create a game she would really enjoy and love to play. Together, they would play Spelling Bee and other word contests, so one day, he thought, “Why not create a game of our own?” 

During the pandemic, Wardle and Shah created Wordle. One day, Wardle gave Shah 12,000 five-letter English words in the dictionary to sort through. Of the 12,000, they chose 2,500 words to utilize in their game. With no advertisements or other engineers, Wardle and Shah alone created this global phenomenon.

Wardle introduced the game to his other relatives in October, and by November, it had 90 players. In January, the unexpected happened: the game had more than 300,000 players. This week, it was bought by the New York Times. What began as a show of love became a multi-million dollar puzzle. But how does Wordle stand out from the dozens of other word puzzles that already exist?

Easy – it’s the scarcity. Players can only play once a day. Similar to Spelling Bee from the NY Times, it is a daily treat players look forward to. Editor of the NYTimes Crossword, Will Shortz, praised Wordle for its success.

“It’s a great puzzle, and it doesn’t take long to play, which makes it perfect for our age when people have short attention spans,” Shortz said.

It leaves players excited to play tomorrow, the next day and the day after that. It has become a habit and routine for devoted players with a hunch for word games.

What I appreciate most is Wordle’s simplicity. There are no frills. It stands on its own without the help of bright graphics, banners and themes to distract players. It is only a black background with three colors: green, yellow and gray. There are no ads. Wardle did not design it to be a money-grab, his only goal is you and your friends enjoyment.

What I love the most, however, is Wordle’s brevity. It should only take players three minutes, if that. It’s not one of those puzzles where players are trapped for hours on end. With only one secret word a day, players are capped to only six attempts. It only takes a little luck and a familiarity with the words in the English language to participate. So how does one actually play?

Players write out one word with five letters. Wordle then tells them whether any of the letters are in the secret word, and if so, whether they are in the appropriate place. Players are only given six turns to find the word of the day. Here are a few tips and tricks when it comes to the game:

One, always guess vowels before consonants. Nearly all English words have a vowel. It is easier to sort through the five vowels before the twenty-one consonants. Once you have at least a vowel, you are already halfway there.

Two, cross your T’s. After the vowels, T’s are the more popular letters. More than 7% of words have a T in it. T’s are usually paired with an S and a H. So, the letters write themselves there.

Three, skip the Q’s. Each word only has five letters. How many five letter words have a Q and a U? Be purposeful with guesses, as players only get a limited amount.

Four, play with friends. It’s a great way to compete with friends. Who can find the word of the day first? Who can find it with less tries? It can become an enjoyable pastime. Everywhere on campus, one can see students play the word game, comparing their attempts with friends.

Living in an age where people are constantly in front of a screen, we need more games like Wordle. It gives us something to talk about with friends and strangers. Wordle has gained traction and widespread participation for this very reason.