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What in the World Is Wordle? Why the Word Game With Colorful Squares Is Everywhere

Chances are you’ve seen rows of green, yellow, and either white or black squares all over the internet. Maybe you’ve scrolled past them on social media, confused as to what they could possibly mean. Or maybe you’ve heard people talking about a “wordle” and found yourself wondering, “What is that?” Well, I have the pleasure of introducing you to a new and incredibly clever word game.

What is a Wordle puzzle?

Wordle started as just a fun game that Josh Wardle, a software engineer, created for his partner, Palak Shah. Knowing that she loved word games, he designed one for them to play every day. He named it Wordle as a play on his last name.

“It’s really sweet. This is definitely how Josh shows his love,” Shah told the New York Times in an article exploring the love story and success behind the game.

It didn’t take long for Wardle’s family and friends to join in on the fun. After seeing how much they liked the game, Wardle decided to open it to the public in October. Once the news of this fun, new game spread, its popularity skyrocketed. So much so that the New York Times company bought the hit game in January after it amassed millions of players per day. Wardle was paid in the “low seven figures” for the game — quite the unexpected payday for a what was meant to be a sweet gesture!

When announcing the sale, Wardle pointed to the influence games already in the Times portfolio had on creating the game. After all, the word games his partner loved to play, inspiring him to create his own, were the New York Times crosswords and Spelling Bee. It all came full circle for Wardle.

How do you play Wordle?

The rules of Wordle are simple. After opening up the web page, you have six tries to guess a five-letter word. Every turn, the letters in your guess will either turn green, yellow, or blank (this could be either white or black, depending on your phone settings). Green means you guessed the correct letter in the correct spot of the word. Yellow means you guessed a correct letter in the word, but it’s not in the right spot. White or black means the letter isn’t in the word at all.

The more you guess, the easier it becomes to suss out the correct word. And the game resets every 24 hours with a brand new word. (In other words, you can play once per day.) This is what my board looked like when I guessed a recent — and particularly hard! — word in five tries.

It sounds simple, and it is! But why did such a simple game become such a hit? It’s mostly thanks to the feature that lets people share their results as soon as they’re done. That explains the colorful squares you’ve seen all over the internet. The website automatically transforms your guesses into a series of squares that reflect how you uncovered the word, or didn’t. Then, it lets you share it on Twitter, where news of Wordle organically spread. It didn’t take long for grids of colorful squares to appear all over the platform, most looking like this:

The more people started sharing these puzzling squares with no information, the more other users tried to find out what they were. When the game popped up on a search, people gave it a try — and got hooked immediately.

It’s not hard to see why! Wordle is easy to play, and you can brag to your friends if you get the right word in just a few guesses. Take me, for example! Within just days, I realized how much I looked forward to playing the game while sipping my morning coffee.

Be warned: It gets addictive, fast. But if you’re ready to test your word skills, head to the official Wordle website for a new challenge.

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