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By Shelley Murphy
It’s a simple premise: a grid of 30 blank boxes, a mystery five-letter word and six chances to guess the answer to the daily puzzle.
The brain-teaser taking over in 2022 is, of course, Wordle.
Since I discovered the game, instead of waking with thoughts of my morning coffee, I find myself musing about five-letter words.
When I mentioned the newest social media and pop culture phenomenon to my younger son, he was surprised and wondered how I heard about the online sensation sweeping the internet.
He knows I don’t subscribe to Facebook/Meta, Twitter, Instagram, et al.
Yes, I miss out on a lot of cute cat videos and teen TikToks, but I do pass up diving down digital rabbit holes.
For those less connected to the internet than I, I’ll explain how to play the popular puzzle game.
Wordle is a daily online word puzzle. The challenge is to guess the secret five-letter word in six tries, or fewer.
The mystery word is the same for everyone playing, and the game’s creator says he doesn’t use obscure words.
Wordle’s format is a boxed grid consisting of 30 square tiles in six rows of five.
To start the game, think of a random five-letter word, type the letters into the first row of tiles, and press enter.
Then, much like the suspenseful reveal of a slot machine, the tiles in that row change into one of three colors indicating success, or failure, of the guesswork.
If a tile holding a letter turns to gray, then that letter is not in the mystery word. (Ugh.)
When a tile turns to yellow, the letter is in the word but in the wrong position. (OK.)
And if a tile turns to green, the letter is in the word and in the correct position. (Yes!)
I love everything about Wordle.
The procrastinator in me favors the game’s premise—it can only be played once a day, no binging allowed. (In some Wordle apps, a custom game allows you to keep playing as much as you want, if you agree to watch a 30-second ad between games, or pay a fee to skip the ads.)
The game is available for free at nytimes.com/games/wordle/index.html.
Players don’t need to download an app to play; the game requires only a web browser.
Participants aren’t asked to enter vital statistics or social security numbers to play, and there aren’t any annoying ads or unnecessary gimmicks to play the daily game.
I gravitate toward word games, not number puzzles. The sheer thought of Sudoko makes me break into a sweat and flash back to problematic math classes.
I like letters; hence, my love of Scrabble. And, thus, my family’s fear of lengthy airport delays and rainy vacation days.
My younger son plays Wordle, and we began partaking about the same time. Our morning text exchanges now read, “Wordle in four.”
I’ve tried to get my older son interested, but he opts out, saying, “It’s a fad.” His stance is almost as annoying as my younger son’s recent texts reading, “Wordle in three.”
We have Josh Wardle to thank for our latest cultural phenomenon.
Wardle, a New York City-based software engineer, developed the game for his partner, who’s a fan of word games.
In October 2021, Wardle released the game to the public and, by November, he counted 90 players; in December, more than 300,000 were playing.
The numbers increased exponentially and, according to the New York Times, millions today play the game each day.
As for my older son’s opinion that Wordle is a fad, ponder this: Wardle told the NYT he’s submitted 2,500 words, providing enough daily games for approximately the next six years.
Many online pop-culture pundits are asking, “Why Wordle, why now?”
It’s simple, I think, the game offers a few minutes of free fun, and hope.
If today’s Wordle wasn’t solved, there’s always tomorrow’s puzzle to try again.
Who knew five-letter words could be so addicting? Well, I guess one guy did.
Last month, Wardle sold his game to the NYT for a sum “in the low seven figures.”
Wordle in one: MONEY.
For more than 20 years, Shelley Murphy and her husband have lived in San Clemente, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.