No, Wordle hasn’t gotten tougher since the NYT takeover — here’s proof
Let’s put that aside immediately: The New York Times hasn’t made Wordle any harder since it completed its takeover of the hit word game.
It is a fact, and I will prove it below. Plus, you could actually argue that the NYT made the game slightly easier – and yes, I know a lot of people won’t believe me on that. So what’s going on here?
Well, since Wordle was bought by the NYT for a figure in the “low seven figures” a few weeks ago, regular players have complained that the answers are much harder to guess.
Today’s game, #242, is unlikely to change that. Without giving the answer, this is one of the more obscure Wordle word list solutions. And predictably, many gamers took to Twitter to share their displeasure.
“Does the @nytimes realize that wordle is supposed to be fun??” bed one Tweet today. “Nothing to see, just @nytimes on its way to ruin the only good thing,” says another one. And there are plenty of others like that.
Me since the @nytimes took over Wordle:#Wordle242 pic.twitter.com/FfRihAzSAXFebruary 16, 2022
Wordle 242 4/6⬜⬜🟨⬜⬜⬜🟩⬜⬜🟨⬜🟩🟨🟨⬜🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 These words have gotten harder since NY Times took over -_- #wordle242 #wordleFebruary 16, 2022
Oh man, there are going to be so many complaints after this one. @nytimes get ready… Wordle 242 3/6⬛⬛🟨⬛⬛⬛🟩⬛🟩⬛🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩February 16, 2022
That feeling when you somehow got today’s #wordle even though it was forged in the fiery furnace of satan’s nest pic.twitter.com/NeNvsiXTnzFebruary 16, 2022
And these aren’t isolated incidents, with people claiming the game got tougher almost as soon as it moved to the NYT.
“It must be a coincidence, but NY Times puzzles are hard and suddenly Wordle has some dodgy words,” author Anna Spargo-Ryan tweeted recently.
The NYT says that’s definitely not the case. “Nothing has changed in the game,” New York Times communications director Jordan Cohen said in an email to The Guardian. The NYT and game creator Josh Wardle previously said nothing would change with the transfer.
It’s actually very easy to confirm it one way or the other. Because Wordle is a standalone game that exists entirely in a browser, you can easily access its wordlist and view the total list of solutions.
I did this myself, comparing the original pre-NYT takeover wordlist with the current list on the game’s new page, and I can confirm, like others including The Verge, that the NYT has not added any new words to the possible solutions.
He did, however, remove six words that were in the pre-takeover game. Three of them were removed as potentially offensive, but two others were specifically removed because the NYT feared they were too obscure. The latter was dropped because it uses a British English spelling rather than American English. This might well have tripped up a few people in the US – just as several solutions proved tricky for those of us in the UK
So there you have it – the NYT didn’t add any harsher words, but it did remove a few that could have been really tough. Yes, the NYT has made Wordle easier.
Of course, the other way the NYT could be appearing making Wordle more difficult is in its selections. And while the total word list may not have changed much, the order has now diverged from that of the original game.
This first appeared yesterday (February 15), when the answer to puzzle #241 was different on the old version than the new one. And the two are also different today, for issue #242.
Therefore, anyone playing a downloaded version of the original game, or who hasn’t refreshed their browser window since the NYT bought Wordle, will see a different response than the majority of gamers – and it just so happens that both the “original” solutions since the two diverged were a bit easier than the NYT’s for the same day.
But none of that means the game is getting harder overall. Even though the last two days have seen more difficult answers, that just means that the remaining solutions will be slightly easier than they otherwise would have been. What you lose now, you will gain in two weeks, two months or two years.
Additionally, many of the answers since the NYT takeover have also been fairly straightforward – with some recent solutions including THOSE, SKILL, FRAME, and PAUSE, none of which can be considered particularly difficult.
I suspect there is some confirmation bias at play here. Many people were opposed to the NYT takeover in the first place and feared the game would be ruined, so (consciously or not) they now see patterns in the solutions.
Plus, some of the NYT’s other games — its Devilish Crossword and Spelling Bee, for example — are quite challenging. It might also cause people to assume that Wordle’s difficulty will increase and look for patterns in recent solutions again.
But the fact is that this does not happen. Wordle isn’t harder than it would have been, it’s still free, and it’s still a great way to spend 10 minutes every day.
So that’s it. But if you want to improve your chances of winning, you can make sure to use one of Wordle’s best seed words and practice by playing Wordle Archive. And if you really want a challenge, you can also take on others online via Squabble, the new Battle Royale version of Wordle. Good luck there.