Perhaps you played the Wordle this morning and encountered a pretty ordinary five-letter word. But if you haven’t refreshed your page over the last week, you could’ve encountered the solution “FETUS,” which The New York Times decided was a bit too closely linked to current events — last week, Politico leaked a Supreme Court opinion draft that is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, reversing the constitutional right to an abortion.
The New York Times changed today’s solution to a word that’s less politically charged, though the original solution might still appear for users who haven’t reloaded the game.
“Some users may see an outdated answer that seems closely connected to a major recent news event. This is entirely unintentional and a coincidence,” wrote New York Times Games editorial director Everdeen Mason in a statement, published right as today’s Wordle hit the web.
As Mason explains, Wordle’s answers are predetermined in its code, pulling from an answer pool of five-letter words that founder Josh Wardle concocted over a year ago. Not all five-letter words appear in the list — he intentionally removed the most obscure five-letter words, since he wanted the game to be solvable more often than not (you also probably won’t encounter a four-letter noun with an added “S” at the end to make it plural).
“When we acquired Wordle in January, it had been built for a relatively small group of users,” Mason said. “We’re now busy revamping Wordle’s technology so that everyone always receives the same word.”
Since Wordle joined New York Times Games, there have been a few instances where there are two possible solutions to a Wordle. Most recently, this happened at the end of March, when users could have encountered either “STOVE” or “HARRY” as the answer.
This happened because The New York Times removed some of the more obscure words left in the Wordle solution bank, such as “HARRY,” which is not the name of a boy wizard, but an outdated verb meaning “to persistently harass.” But when Wordle migrated from Wardle’s personal website to The New York Times, some users’ games were still pulling data from the original Wordle, not the slightly tweaked New York Times version.
The New York Times says that “tens of millions” of people are playing Wordle each day. Its “low seven figures” acquisition of the delightfully simple game seems to be paying off, as the company said it had its best quarter ever for user growth in its subscription-based Games section.