First, stop whining. Wordle is no harder than it was a week ago before The New York Times bought, updated the logo and colors and put millions of Wordle fans on high alert. If anything, it just got easier.
I know, five-letter words like Cynic aren’t easy. They repeat letters, use only one vowel (Y is an unofficial member of the vowel family), and we don’t use them that often. people complained that perhaps The New York Times scribes were upping the ante. No, not so, promised the Old Gray Lady. Those words were already in the system.
What the Times did this week, however, was simplify and perhaps purify the Wordle system.
A few weeks ago I wrote about Wordle’s charming robbery, Lewdle. It was made up of nothing but insulting words. A silly and basically harmless effort. In a statement about recent changes to Wordle, a spokesperson for the New York Times said Fox4News in Dallas, TX:
“We are updating the word list over time to remove obscure words to keep the puzzle accessible to more people, as well as insensitive or offensive words.”
It’s hard to imagine a less offensive game than Wordle. Indeed, the entire creation, from the design to the simple gameplay (a 5-by-6 grid, with six chances to guess the word based on the game’s visual feedback) and the lack of in-game competition seems the least bit of kindness. It’s how I envision the game’s creator, Josh Wardle, who built the game essentially out of love for his partner and as a way to stay connected during the pandemic.
I understand. No one wants to work for a few minutes or more on a pleasurable word game only to find that they are building the five letters for, say, a collection of a human body part. I’ve tried reaching out to Wardle on Twitter to see if he’s put any “offensive” words on the list and will update this if he responds.
But I’m actually more concerned with The New York Time’s other effort: removing obscure words.
Original Wordle players will remember that the game’s first web address was a UK URL. That’s because Wardle is from Wales.
Over the course of the month, I noticed more than a few Anglocentric words in the Wordle results, including Shire, Abbey, and Shard. If you’ve never been to the UK, never talked to anyone there, never read a book about the UK or never watched a single Harlan Coben crime drama on Netflix, you might be confused by these words.
I’ve watched a ton of UK crime dramas and more recently I’ve gotten to work with a great team from the UK. I tend to know my Anglo terms.
The New York Times, however, is strangely focused on accessibility for this already basic game. It’s just five damn letters. Does the New York Times crossword need to become more accessible?
It never occurred to me that the blacksmiths at one of America’s oldest and most famous newspapers would try to dumb down the game, make Wordle as simple as possible.
The beauty of Wordle is that it not only challenges your knowledge of five-letter words, it also drives you to look up and learn new words. When we are perplexed, don’t most of us go to Google to try different letter combinations to find the unknown word? Or is it just me? Anyway, this game is a vocabulary builder, unless of course you remove obscure words.
There’s a five-letter word for what the New York Times is doing and it probably doesn’t fit Wordle anymore.