The Hindu Profiles | On S. Somanath, Swami Prasad Maurya, and Wordle

Wordle | Game of words

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 12: In this photo illustration, the word game Wordle is shown on a mobile phone on January 12, 2022 in Houston, Texas. The online word game Wordle has gone viral after initially gaining momentum in October of 2021. Created by software engineer Josh Wardle, the game now has more than 2.7 million players. (Photo Illustration by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
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HOUSTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 12: In this photo illustration, the word game Wordle is shown on a mobile phone on January 12, 2022 in Houston, Texas. The online word game Wordle has gone viral after initially gaining momentum in October of 2021. Created by software engineer Josh Wardle, the game now has more than 2.7 million players. (Photo Illustration by Brandon Bell/Getty Images) == FOR NEWSPAPERS, INTERNET, TELCOS & TELEVISION USE ONLY == | Photo Credit: Brandon Bell

Guess a five-letter word in six tries. That simply is what Wordle, the latest craze for puzzle lovers across the world, is about. Josh Wardle, a Brooklyn-based coder, reportedly created this in order to play with his puzzle-loving partner. On that basis alone, Wordle has been wildly successful. A few million play it during the weekends now, according to media reports, a big leap from the 90 who solved it on November 1.

For many who haven’t attempted it yet, their first touch point is usually a proud Wordle solver who shares a green-grey-yellow grid — a “spoiler-free emoji grid”, as Wardle puts it — on social media.

On the site, though, a clean 5*6 matrix (meaning, availability of six attempts to guess a five-letter word) stares at the solver. There are no letters, no prompts. The first guess is a blind guess, or so one thinks initially.

The colours that the Wordle grid produces for the individual letters of the word so guessed are essentially the only clues one gets in this puzzle. A letter in green means it is in the word and is in the correct spot. A letter in grey means it is not in the word. And a letter in yellow means it is in the word but in the wrong spot. You have five more chances to figure this out.

Mr. Wardle hadn’t designed Wordle with worldly success in mind. In a digital world, awash with content, puzzles, and games, and marketed with an eye on holding on to the user as long as possible, Wordle has come across as an exception. Once you are done with a day’s puzzle, you have no option but to wait till the next day for the next puzzle. It is simple and scarce. Mr. Wardle told The Guardian , “It going viral doesn’t feel great, to be honest.” He added: “I feel a sense of responsibility for the players. I feel I really owe it to them to keep things running and make sure everything’s working correctly.”

Unique products

Mr. Wardle’s ‘About’ tab on the LinkedIn profile page says he is someone who loves “building unique products that focus on human interactions”. Wordle wasn’t his first such product to catch the fancy of a large number of people. In his earlier job with Reddit, he was behind the ‘Place’ and ‘The Button’ projects. ‘The Button’, introduced on April Fool’s day in 2015, involved the presence of a timer which went down from 60 seconds, and a button which could reset the timer back to 60 seconds. In the few months that this project was alive, Reddit users formed serious communities based on whether they pressed the button or not. Even those who were for pressing the button, found themselves in different camps according to when they intervened.

Place was a collaborative project wherein registered Reddit users could change the colour of a pixel in a vast digital canvas, 1,000 x 1000 pixels big. A million users did, resulting in a user describing it to Newsweek “as a massive multiplayer version of Microsoft Paint”. Mr. Wardle told Newsweek in 2017 that “Early on, Place definitely resembled the kind of graffiti you would see in a bathroom stall. What was really amazing was seeing how quickly the community organised and started to self-police the canvas to keep it positive.”

With fame, Wordle, Mr. Wardle’s latest creation, is taking a life of its own. Programmers and math enthusiasts have come up with the best way to crack Wordle. Tyler Glaiel, for instance, has written a whole post on the word that is the most mathematically optimal first guess. And that’s ROATE, he says. A Wired article mentions NOTES, RESIN, TARES, and SENOR to be good starting options, based on letter frequency analysis. Some others have placed their bets on ADIEU. Then, there is this Reddit user who feels “YUMMY is the worst opener.” Another says, “I think we don’t need to make WORDLE too complicated. I am seeing a flux of algorithms to crack it. Let’s keep it fun and suspenseful.”

The Wordle popularity has rubbed off on others. Someone has made a sequencer that turns results into music. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi used the Wordle format to hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Brands have done the same to market themselves. And there have been plenty of rip offs on app stores to take advantage of the original’s success. And that’s why The New York Times ’ latest article on it is titled ‘Everyone Wants to Be Wordle.’


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Printable version | Feb 13, 2022 7:10:41 am | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/wordle-game-of-words/article38274996.ece