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Is Wordle getting harder? Yes and no

Double-letter words, repeat letters and obscure answers are making Wordle less fun — and Twitter is livid

Ujjainee Roy | Published 01.03.22, 03:25 PM
The free-to-play game was originally designed by New York-based software engineer Josh Wardle

The free-to-play game was originally designed by New York-based software engineer Josh Wardle

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Within a month of The New York Times’ acquisition of the smash-hit Wordle, players are convinced that the word game has changed — for the worse. Players — including A-list ones like talk show host Trevor Noah and Schitt’s Creek star Dan Levy — have complained that Wordle now feels much harder and more strenuous.

The free-to-play game, which was originally designed by a New York-based software engineer named Josh Wardle, was conceived as a private word game between him and his partner, Palak Shah. Wardle released it online last October and it quickly went viral once he added the shareable feature. But in the last couple of weeks, players have noticed too many double-letter words, repeat letters, unlikely words and inconsistencies pertaining to American and British spellings. 

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“NYT has absolutely ruined Wordle,” behavioural and data scientist Dr. Pragya Agarwal wrote on Twitter. “It has taken joy out of something that was for everyone, a tiny sense of achievement we could all get from solving it by making it into something we are likely to struggle with. A subtle veneer of pretentiousness has been added that makes me sad.”

Since the daily five-letter word on Wordle is the same for everyone globally, it’s easy for players to identify issues with its design or gameplay. The answer to Wordle 242 (dated February 16), for instance, was ‘caulk’ and users were quick to deem the word too pretentious and almost impossible to guess. The New York Times, however, denies claims that they have added any word to the solution list that was decided by the original designer, Wardle. 

The New York Times has denied claims that they have added any word to the solution list that was decided by the original designer

The New York Times has denied claims that they have added any word to the solution list that was decided by the original designer

Shutterstock

“Since acquiring Wordle, The Times has not made the puzzle harder. We have not added any words to the solutions list, which was already predetermined by the game's original creator," said communications director Jordan Cohen. In fact, it was revealed that the media giant has removed certain insensitive and obscure words from the original curation, such as slave, wench, agora etc.

The addictive nature of the word game was a big reason behind its booming success. With words like swill, knoll, whack etc, players need more tries to crack the word guessing game, if they can crack it at all. “It shouldn’t be a test of someone’s vocabulary. The beauty of it was that they were commonly used words (that were still a challenge to work out) so everyone could play. NYT has made it far too academic and elitist,” a Twitter user pointed out.

So, is Wordle harder now? According to computer scientist David Andersen, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, the answer to this question is yes and no. Andersen, who has compared the source code of the original game with the NYT version, explained that while NYT hasn’t made Wordle harder, the last few days have featured a difficult sequence of words. “The past two days had repeated letters. The previous week had a bunch of ‘u’s,” he says.

Anderson also identified some other issues which may be making the new Wordle a bit less user-friendly. “Your symptoms are valid for other reasons: The NYT version of Wordle loads more slowly because the page has gotten larger. Even small reductions in responsiveness reduce people's perception of games (and reduce purchasing rates in online stores). And ownership changed. The font changed! The layout got wider. This can have a big effect on people who play on a laptop or desktop. etc., etc. The feel changed! But the words? They really didn't get harder,” he adds.

Twitter is, of course, a minefield of memes and parodies about the hard Wordle debacle. We rounded up some of the best reactions:

Last updated on 01.03.22, 03:25 PM
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