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Here’s how the New York Times changed Wordle


Here’s how the New York Times changed Wordle

Aurich Lawson


When the New York Times purchased viral daily word game hit Wordle for a “low seven figures” price late last month, the new owner promised that “no changes will be made to its gameplay.” But while Wordle‘s basic guessing system remains unaltered, it turns out that the Times has made some minor changes to the five-letter word lists that help define the game.

Since its public launch last October, Wordle has relied on two basic lists of five-letter words. The first, which defines which words players are allowed to guess, encompasses nearly 13,000 words—pretty much every such word in the English language. The second, a list of daily answers, contains a more limited set of about 2,300 of those words, originally chosen based on whether they were familiar to Wordle creator Josh Wardle’s partner, Palak Shah (that second list should last the game into October of 2027).

Both lists have long been semi-public knowledge for anyone who takes the time to look through the game’s unobfuscated JavaScript code, which was not exactly created with security in mind. In the past, some players have even exploited that lax security to try to spoil the daily Wordle solution for others.

Bad Word-les

Because the Javascript code on the New York Times version of Wordle is essentially unchanged, it’s still easy to look at both of these word lists by simply inspecting the HTML source code on the game’s new URL. Comparing those lists to the original version of the game (which was hosted at Powerlanguage.co.uk) reveals the changes the new ownership has made.

Those changes so far have not been major, encompassing just 25 guessable words and seven daily answers (all of which are scheduled for the next 365 days, suggesting more changes may be coming next year). The vast majority of those disallowed words are gendered or racial slurs (“WENCH” is one of the only ones we’re comfortable reprinting) or relate to potentially offensive topics (“SLAVE,” “LYNCH”). Others are just foreign spellings (like “FIBRE”) or outdated words (like “AGORA”). Plenty of sexual terms and words relating to other “adult” topics are still allowed.

“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,” the Times said in a statement provided to ABC News’ Michael Slezak. “Solvers on the old word list can likely update to the new list by refreshing their browsers.”

That last line is a reference to many players, Slezak included, who are complaining on Twitter that their latest Wordle solution didn’t line up with those of other players. That’s because some players are still playing on the old PowerLanguage-hosted edition of the game, either through a cached version in their browser or one they deliberately saved locally before the recent changeover (the old URL now redirects to the NYT site). That includes some players who are sticking with the original version because of a glitch in the NYT site that made it so their existing streaks didn’t carry over to the new version. Those daily syncing issues will likely diminish as more players transition to playing on the NYT site.

We don’t think many regular Wordle players will be mourning the loss of some of the most offensive words in the English language from their daily word game. But for purists who are wary of any changes by a new, large corporate owner, the original version is not hard to find.





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