Why are so many people flocking to Wordle online?

By Ernie Williamson

The Bulletin


My college-bound granddaughter challenged me to an online word game.


No problem, I thought. I was, after all, a newspaper editor for almost 45 years. A piece of cake.

She explained the rules (without giving me any tips, I might add), and we started playing on our phones. The winner would be the first one to identify the mystery word.


Within seconds, she shrieked that she had the answer.


How could that be? I was still trying to remember what the green, yellow and gray squares meant.


But sure enough, she showed me the word.


Perhaps figuring she had dented my pride, she explained that luck had been with her because she had unveiled the mystery word on only her second guess. She said that was rare.


Was she just trying to make her sulking grandpa feel better?


The game, of course, was Wordle, a word game that has grown wildly in popularity.


The story behind the game is as interesting as the game can be frustrating. It is a bit of a love story.


Josh Wardle, a software engineer in Brooklyn, knew his sweetheart loved word games. He created a guessing game for just the two of them. He named the game Wordle, playing on his last name.


It was really sweet,” Palak Shah, Wardle’s partner, says. “This is definitely how Josh shows his love.”


After the couple played for months, Wardle thought he might be on to something and released the game to the world last November.


There were 90 players that November. Two months later there were 300,000. Then in January the New York Times paid Wardle “an undisclosed price in the low seven figures” to acquire the game.


The Times believes the addition of Wordle will give people around the world another reason to turn to the company. Millions of people play the game each day, according to the Times.


The Times has vowed to keep the game free to current and future users.


But blending news with games on its site can be tricky.


The Times moved recently to change the answer to a day’s Wordle puzzle out of fear it would be seen as commentary on abortion rights.


The mystery word was “fetus” and had been entered into Wordle’s computer program last year. The word had been scheduled to appear only a week after the leaked Supreme Court decision.


Wordle is relatively simple to learn but challenging to play. More than once I have thumped my forehead with my palm in an “how - did - I - not - figure - that- out” gesture.


Like a crossword, it can only be played once a day. Every 24 hours there’s a new word.


You have six guesses to figure out the 5-letter word. After each guess, the color of the tiles changes to show how close your guess was to the word.


If you have the right letter in the right spot, it shows up green. A correct letter in wrong spot shows up yellow. A letter that isn’t in the word shows up gray.


With my pride wounded, I didn’t play the game after losing to my granddaughter. But circumstances led me to try again.


Between my disability, the pandemic and the heat, my activities have been limited. I needed a daily challenge. So, back to Wordle. I recommend it for everyone, particularly seniors. It gives your brain a workout.


Just watch out for those granddaughters.


(Contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, write to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)