New York Times has not made Wordle harder, computer scientist says

The publication has only removed six words

Saman Javed
Sunday 27 February 2022 11:13 GMT
<p>Wordle was acquired by the NYT at the beginning of this month </p>

Wordle was acquired by the NYT at the beginning of this month

A computer scientist has averted the internet’s most pressing suspicion; no, The New York Times (NYT) has not made Wordle harder.

David Andersen, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, US, has compared the source code of the original game with the NYT version, finding that only six words have been changed.

For the uninitiated, Wordle is a daily word game which sees players guess a five-letter word in six tries or less.

Originally created by software engineer Josh Wardle as a present for his partner, it was acquired by NYT for an undisclosed seven-figure sum at the beginning of this month after gaining popularity on social media.

In a thread posted to Twitter, Andersen said the NYT had changed the original word list in “very small ways” and had removed just six words – fibre, lynch, agora, pupal, slave and wench – likely because they may have caused offence.

“They added no new words,” he said. “They also removed some possible words from the dictionary of guesses – again, mostly things that might offend.”

Andersen said that while his findings show that the publication did not make the game harder, people’s feelings that the game “feels harder” are valid.

“This is a hard sequence of words in both original Wordle and NYT Wordle,” he added, explaining that recent days had more repeated letters and uses of the letter “u”.

He also pointed out how adapting to Wordle’s new platform could be affecting how well people play.

“Your symptoms are valid for other reasons: The NYT version of Wordle loads more slowly, because the page has gotten larger. Even small reductions in responsiveness reduces people’s perception of games,” he said.

“The font changed! The layout got wider. This can have a big effect for people who play on a laptop or desktop.”

Andersen also provided an explanation as to why Wordle 241 gave users two different words, agora and aroma.

This is because NYT had removed agora from its list, but the change had not been reflected in all players’ browsers.

When asked by one Twitter user why she was able to play the word “agora”, Andersen said: “Some people are still having the old version, most likely to happen if you’ve left it open in a browser tab and not closed it/force refreshed it since the [NYT] acquisition,” he said.

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