If you've opened Twitter recently (always a bad idea) you've probably seen at least one person in your feed, if not several, posting strange, contextless messages consisting of numbers and colored squares. Something like this:
Wordle 195 3/6
No, it's not a code to activate a brainwashed secret agent and direct them to a dead drop for their next assassination target (as far as we know). It's Wordle, which if Googled will take you to a bunch of recent excited articles about Wordle and, if you're lucky, to the actual Wordle website where you can play it for free.
Wordle is a daily word game you can play in your browser. It serves as a brain-teaser and welcome distraction for a few minutes a day. There's only one puzzle available each day, so you can't gorge yourself for hours on Wordles. Which is honestly kinda nice! It only takes a few minutes, it's fun, and it can be a bit of a challenge without sucking up your entire afternoon.
Wordle was made by software engineer Josh Wardle (really) who created the game for his partner who loves word games, then sent it to his family who also loved it, and then released it to the public back in October.
“It's something that encourages you to spend three minutes a day,” Wardle told the New York Times. “And that's it. Like, it doesn't want any more of your time than that.”
How to play Wordle
In Wordle you're presented with five empty boxes, and you need to figure out which secret five-letter word fits in those boxes using no more than six guesses. Start with a word like FARTS. Hit Enter and the boxes will show you which letters you've got right or wrong. If a box turns gray, that letter isn't in the secret word. If it turns yellow, that letter is in the word but in a different spot. And if it turns green you've got both the letter and placement correct. (There is a color-blind mode with higher-contrast colors as well.)
In the next row, repeat the process for your next guess using what you learned from your previous guess. You have six tries, and can only use real words (so no filling the boxes with EEEEE to see if there's an E).
When you've won (or lost) it's time to share your results on social media because if you did something and no one saw it, did you really do it? That's why all those boxes are clogging up Twitter.
It's actually a fairly thoughtful sharing system that doesn't give away the puzzle (like I just did) while showing how many tries it took you to get the answer, but at the same time seeing everyone's colored, letterless boxes being posted all the time isn't as much fun as seeing, for example, a great gif of a Rocket League goal. It's just some boxes and if you don't play Wordle (or even if you do) it might be mildly annoying. Another thing to keep in mind is that all those little boxes are apparently a nightmare for screen readers:
Wondering how accessible these Wordle tweets are?Here’s a quick demo I did with iOS VoiceOver and a quote from @MrBrokenEyes “They are horrible and mean nothing. Takes my iPhone over a minute to read it, and that’s at 65 speed.” https://t.co/GAqlGQpUAT pic.twitter.com/HHFIH5rni6January 4, 2022
Want to play Wordle? You probably do, it's a nice little game. Here are a few quick Wordle tips:
Try to begin with a word that uses several different vowels and common consonants. RAISE, for example, is a good starter word because it has three vowels and two very common letters. ATAXY, on the other hand, uses A twice and has an X and Y which, if eliminated, probably won't help you with your next guess all that much.
Keep in mind a letter may appear more than once in the solution. If you enter TAINT and the A turns yellow or green, that doesn't mean the answer only contains a single A. It may have more. The answer could be MAFIA, for example.
After your first guess it may be tempting to use a letter that you know isn't in the word because it's been grayed out. But don't! Take your time and think of a word that doesn't contain any excluded letters. You want each guess to provide as much information as possible.
It's not every day a little free browser game captures so many people's attention, especially one with no ads, no unlocks, and no push notifications reminding you to play it (in fact, I usually forget to play until I see someone else's squares posted on Twitter). Wardle, speaking to the BBC, says he plans to keep it that way. I have no doubt we'll start seeing some Wordle clones pop up in app stores, but for now Wordle will just be about the words.