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Wordle Has Themes Now, so You Should Change Your Strategy

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5ff734006f8352b2062d9b3bd10527d5 Wordle Has Themes Now, so You Should Change Your Strategy
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Wordle is still played the same way as ever, and if you just want a simple game without overthinking it, that’s all you need to know. But things have been changing behind the scenes, and that includes the way solutions are chosen.

Originally, the answer each day came from a list of 2000+ words that was embedded in the site’s javascript code. (If you wanted, you could just view the page’s source and look at it.) This list avoided words that were too obscure or that were simple plurals of four-letter words, and over time I found myself developing a sense for whether a word I was mulling over is “Wordle-ish” enough to be the solution for the day. Sometimes, before entering my guess, I would check it against this no-spoilers list: all the Wordle words are there, but not in order. I could Ctrl-F for, say, “minim” to see whether it’s a possible solution.

When the New York Times bought the game earlier this year, at first they kept the old word list. (All the complaints about the NYT making the game “harder” were imagined; they actually did the opposite, removing the word AGORA from the word list because they thought it was a bit too obscure.)

But that’s changing. There is now an editor for Wordle, Tracy Bennett, and the editor has the power to choose the solutions. That means you have to shift your solving spidey sense from “is this the kind of word I would find on the Wordle list?” to “Is this the kind of word Tracy Bennett would pick for today?”

For Thanksgiving, she picked FEAST. For the day before Thanksgiving, DRIVE. You might either think those are cute and clever choices, or you get mad that the purity of the game is being spoiled. I don’t agree with the writer who said that the editor is “ruining” Wordle, but I understand.

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If you play the New York Times crossword, you know that playfulness is part of the philosophy; I’m not at all surprised that these little winks are making their way over to Wordle choices. By choosing words deliberately each day, the NYT is also giving itself the ability to avoid words it thinks may be inappropriate, like when FETUS popped up after the Roe v. Wade opinion was leaked.

Ultimately, this means that you may want to keep seasonality and newsworthiness in mind when choosing your starting word, or when pondering a possible answer. FEAST may seem a bit heavy-handed, but what if it was meant as a message, loud and clear, that times have changed?

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