What’s A “Wordle”?

Is “Wordle” a typo – it’s supposed to be “worlde,” an old-fashioned way of spelling “world?” 

Or is it “waddle”? 

Or is it “woodle,” a hybrid designer dog (pictured) created by mixing a Welsh Terrier with a poodle?

No.  I’ve learned the word actually is “Wordle.”

I’d never heard of it until this New York Times headline appeared in my inbox on January 3:

“What’s a ‘Wordle’?” I thought.

But I was focused on other things, and forgot about it.

Ten days later, this Washington Post headline arrived in my inbox:

What was with this “Wordle” stuff, that both the New York Times and the Washington Post felt it story-worthy?

Eventually I’d learn that as august a publication as the 104-year-old Forbes Magazine has climbed on the bandwagon:

Forbes, which offers “articles on finance, industry, investing, and marketing topics…and related subjects such as technology, communications, science, politics, and law,” apparently feels Wordle is so story-worthy that one of their senior contributors is doing a daily column about it.  In which he exhorts us to…

“…be sure to follow me on this blog for daily Wordle answers!”

Back to my introduction to Wordle.

I went to the source – the Wordle website:

That’s it – one page, a grid, and a keyboard.

No additional pages, no flashing lights, no ads.

And no game instructions, not that I could see, so went back to the search page and read this:

“The color of the tiles will change…”

And then what?

And what do the color changes mean?

I had to go elsewhere to learn how to play.

But the internet abounds with articles that told me how, and now, somewhat educated – including learning that Wordle is free – I returned to the Wordle website.

And stared at the screen.

I had six tries to come up with the correct five-letter word.  Where do I start?  Do I just think of a five-letter word and enter it, and see if anything sticks?

Apparently – yes.

I clicked on five letters, and clicked “Enter”:

The game indicates:

Green = right letter, right position.
Yellow = right letter, wrong position.
Gray = wrong letter.

My first attempt was five strike-outs.

Well, this was fun.

I did at least learn that the day’s word didn’t contain the letters Q, U, E and N.

Now all I had to do was try to figure out which of the thousands of five-letter words in our language did not contain those letters.

And there are thousands of five-letter words in our language – according to the New York Times article, about 12,000.  But the game’s creator, Josh Wardle – and yes, the name of the game is a riff on his name – narrowed the list to “about 2,500, which should last for a few years,” the Times writer cheerfully predicted.

And one of those 2,500 words recently caused a great deal of flap:

“The first sign of a backlash against Wordle has emerged”!
“…caused a lot of anger on Twitter”!
“…most of the responses are too sweary for us to repeat here”!

The anger, from British and Commonwealth players, came from the January 12th word – “favor” – which Brits spell with six letters:  “favour.”

That, and the fact that Wardle is British, but appears to favor American spellings.

So overwhelming was the anger that on January 13 the Washington Post spoke of a “Transatlantic Rift”:

“Bloody American spelling,” tweeted one disgruntled player.  “I thought a Brit invented this?”

“My mum is also appalled by the Wordle scandal – we deserve justice!” tweeted another.

Wardle could not be reached for comment.

But I mostly missed all the flap because I was still staring at my screen…

Thinking of other words to try.  “Bland?”  No, that has an N.  “Frame?”  No, that has an E.

Then I started thinking about lunch.  Wait!  How about “lunch?”  No, that has a U.

Well, this was fun.

There’s no question that for many people, Wordle is fun.  The number of participants has grown from around 90 in early November to 2.7 million in mid-January.

And all sorts of media have taken notice.

People are being analyzed…

People are figuring out how to cheat…

And people are ripping off the game…

But as for me, I’m still staring at the Wordle screen.

I’ve tried another word and got five more grays.  I’m now 0 for 10 letters:

And it is time for lunch.

But…well…let’s give it one more try…


Now all I need is a word with O in the third position…

And it’s got to be the right word with O in the third position…

And no Q, U, E, N, B, L, A, C, K, W, no second O, or D or S and…

Ready for another try, and…


Can you tell by my word choices that I have NO idea what this word is?

But that’s OK.

I know that if I skip lunch, and dinner, and persevere, I can solve this before Wordle changes the word…

Update:  I never did figure out the day’s word.  I learned, courtesy of our pal at Forbes – who got it in four tries – that the word was “proxy”:

Well, that was fun.

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