February 4, 2022

Wordle up (for sale)! NYT swoops for puzzle craze


My results from Wordle 229. No I’m not okay.

It’s the little puzzle that could.

Wordle started life last October, the simple invention of Josh Wardle, who grew up in Llanddewi Rhydderch, Wales, UK, and now works as a software engineer in Brooklyn.

Wardle developed it for his partner as a fun new game to play each day in lockdown. But once it was released to the world, quickly more people started to come on board the Wordle train, with an ever-growing band of obsessives joining in their attempt to uncover the “Wordle of the day” and share their scores with others.

If you’ve been living under a rock for the last six months and don’t know how the game works, here’s a quick lesson:

  1. The aim of the game is to uncover which five-letter word is the “Wordle of the day.”
  2. You guess by typing in other five-letter words until you get it.
  3. So it’s good to start with a five-letter word with five separate letters e.g. SAINT.
  4. Wordle then tells you how close you are to solving the puzzle:
  5. If the square turns grey, that letter is not in the word.
  6. If the square turns yellow, that letter IS in the word but NOT in that position.
  7. If the square turns green, that letter IS in the word and IS in that position.
  8. Continue playing until they all turn green!

Players could then share their results on social media, indicating that day’s progress without giving away the solution itself.

Josh had accidentally turned out the perfect word game: satisfying, addictive, and occasionally infuriating. (Who knew you could repeat letters within the word?! Not this guy until embarrassing late!!)

Anyway Wordle has proven globally popular—over 300,000 people posted their results on Twitter alone on 27th January*—so much so that The New York Times has swooped in and acquired the rights to the game in a reported seven-figure deal.

In a statement on Twitter confirming the sale, Wardle expressed his joy at his invention’s impact. “It has been incredible to see a game bring so much joy to so many, and I feel so grateful for the personal stories some of you have shared with me.”

The buyout raised fears that Wordle would be monetised—however, The Guardian‘s report carries a quote from the NYT saying they have “no plans at this time” to put the game behind a paywall.

…Which is a relief, as I’ve genuinely started planning my days around it.



*(I also recommend Googling “wordle” for a fun Easter egg)

Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.