August 19, 2022

The New York Times has altered the Wordle solutions list to avoid an answer for today’s puzzle that would have “seem[ed] closely connected to a major recent news event,” as the company put it in a public note this morning.

Today’s originally intended solution, FETUS, was first added to the game’s word list last year, when Wordle creator Josh Wardle included it among the randomly ordered list of roughly 2,300 five-letter words intended to define the daily word game for years to come. The New York Times has pushed that term to the end of the game’s solutions list, where it is now scheduled to appear sometime in late 2027 (it remains to be seen if today’s news focus on the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision will still be as much of a concern by then).

Copies of the Wordle webpage on the Internet Archive show the Times making the change for today’s puzzle sometime on May 6. As such, players who have not refreshed the Wordle webpage in the last few days “may see an outdated answer that seems closely connected to a major recent news event,” as the Times wrote.

Players who don’t refresh will also remain out of sync with others playing the updated version of the game. The Times wrote that it has “continued to discover challenges” following its seven-figure acquisition of the game in January. “We’re now busy revamping Wordle’s technology so that everyone always receives the same word.”

A sensitive subject

Calling the original placement of FETUS “unintentional” and a “coincidence,” the Times wrote that “we take our role seriously as a place to entertain and escape, and we want Wordle to remain distinct from the news. But because of the current Wordle technology, it can be difficult to change words that have already been loaded into the game. When we discovered last week that this particular word would be featured today, we switched it for as many solvers as possible.”

Last week’s edits to the word list, which are viewable by looking at the game’s Javascript source code, also pushed a handful of other words—BUTCH, STALK, FLACK, WIDOW, and AUGUR—to the end of the solutions list.

In February, the Times removed seven then-upcoming Wordle solutions (and 25 options for valid guesses) from the game’s rotation, mostly to remove gendered or racial slurs from consideration. In late March, the company also pushed another 18 solutions to the back of the line, including VOMIT, FANNY, ECLAT, and FELLA.

In a recent earnings call, the Times said Wordle, which remains free, brought in “tens of millions” of new players to the site’s Games section and “played an outsized role in the quarter’s engagement and subscriber growth.”

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