What is Wordle? Rules, strategy and everything you need to know

It’s been more than a year since Wordle became the biggest puzzle craze since, well, ever. In that time, it has gotten millions of daily players, been the subject of a lot of news stories, been bought by the New York Times, and been at the centre of a number of controversies.

So, what is Wordle now, as 2023 begins? Is it still a fun way to kill a few minutes or something much bigger?

We’ll try to answer that question below, as well as tell you what Wordle is, what the best starting words are, what WordleBot is, and much more. And if you just want some hints for the latest game, check out our Wordle today page for clues and the answer.

WHAT IS WORDLE?: THE BASICS

What does Wordle do?

Wordle is a simple game in which you have to guess a new five-letter word every day. You get six guesses, and with each guess, you learn a little more. Eventually, you can narrow down your guesses to find the answer. Or at least that’s the idea. Even though it’s a simple game at its core, it can be surprisingly hard to figure out how to win. Here’s more about that.

It can be played online through the Wordle website(opens in new tab) or the New York Times’ Crossword app (iOS(opens in new tab) / Android(opens in new tab)). It’s free to play, but you have to pay to use the NYT’s WordleBot helper tool. There have also been rumours that the game itself will eventually be hidden behind a paywall, but so far the NYT has resisted the urge to scratch that potentially lucrative itch.

The most important thing is that everyone gets the same answer every day. This means that you’re not just competing against yourself or the game, but also against the rest of the world. The puzzle then starts over every day at midnight where you are, giving you a new challenge and a chance to keep your streak going.

What are Wordle streaks?

Wordle keeps track of the games you play in the browser or app and keeps a running score of how many games you win and lose. Every time you win, your Wordle streak will get longer.

If you lose a game, your streak goes back to 0. Also, if you don’t play for a day, your streak starts over. For example, if you won 100 games in a row, missed a day, and then won your next game, your streak would be 1, not 101. Unfair? Maybe, but it makes you want to play.

If you are travelling, this could be a problem. People have lost their winning streaks when they played in a different time zone, so be careful out there.

Why does it matter? Well, people who use Wordle a lot are very protective of their streaks. It’s a badge of honour or a sign of dedication, and if you want to, you can brag about it.

What are the Wordle rules?

The rules of Wordle are pretty easy to understand, but there are a couple of twists to keep things interesting.

  1. Letters that are in the right place and are part of the answer turn green.
  2. Letters that belong in the answer but are in the wrong place turn yellow.\
  3. Letters that aren’t in the answer turn grey.
  4. Answers are always singular.
  5. There can be more than one letter. So, if your guess includes two of the same letter, they could both turn yellow, both turn green, or one could turn yellow and the other could turn green.
  6. Every word you guess must be in Wordle’s dictionary. For example, you can’t guess ABCDE.
  7. You do not have to include correct letters in subsequent guesses unless you play on Hard mode.
  8. You have six tries to figure out what the Wordle is.
  9. You have to finish the daily Wordle before midnight where you live.
  10. All of the answers come from Wordle’s list of 2,309 possible answers. However…
  11. Wordle will take guesses from a larger pool of words—about 10,000 of them. For example, you can guess that WORDS is a plural word. It won’t be right (see point 4), but Wordle will let you use it as a guess.
  12. You must protect your winning streak like a dog protects a bone.

What are all those funny squares that are yellow and green on Twitter?

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past year, you’ve probably seen grids of yellow and green squares on your favourite social media site. These are the results from Wordle, and they’re pretty smart.

Since everyone plays the same game, you can’t just post the answer on social media without ruining the fun for everyone else. So, instead, the Share button makes a summary of how your game went without giving away the letters you used. So, you can impress people with how smart you are with words without giving away the answer.

Even if you know someone else’s start word, the Wordle grid may still give you some pretty big hints, so if you want the ultimate challenge, you’ll still want to stay off Twitter and other platforms until you’ve finished the day’s puzzle.

Do I need a Wordle account to play?

Not really, but you could still want one. Wordle keeps track of your progress through your web browser, so as long as you don’t clear your cache, it will remember your stats. If you do that, your streak and percentage of wins might go back to 0.

Because Wordle relies on the cache, if you play it on your laptop using Chrome and then play it on your phone using Safari, your progress won’t be saved.

The answer is to make a free account with the NYT. This will save your stats on all of your devices and browsers, so your streak should be safe no matter where you play. Even though what was said about different time zones still holds true.

Is Wordle no cost?

Yes! Wordle is a game that you can play for free on the New York Times website. As was said above, you can make a free account to save your progress across devices, but you don’t have to pay for a NYT subscription.

You can also play Wordle on the NYT Crossword app, and it’s free to do so. If you also want to do the daily Crossword, you’ll need to subscribe, though.

As it stands, the only thing you have to pay for to use Wordle is a NYT subscription if you want to use WordleBot.

How does Wordle Hard mode work?

In Wordle’s Hard mode, the answer isn’t any harder, but it is harder to find. How does it work?

In Wordle Hard mode, you have to use any letters you find in all of your guesses after that. For example, if you guess “TODAY” and the “T” turns yellow, your next guess must include a “T.” And if a letter turns green, your next guess has to include it in the right place.

In some games, this can be a big deal. One example that stands out, at least among Wordlers, is game #265, where the answer was WATCH. On Hard mode, once you found the -ATCH part in green, you had to leave it there for the rest of your guesses. But since PATCH, LATCH, BATCH, MATCH, CATCH, HATCH, and WATCH are all possible answers, you would have to guess and hope for the best. There are just too many options.

You could guess a word like CHAMP on normal mode. You’d know it wasn’t right, but it would rule out (or in) four possible answers at once: CATCH, HATCH, MATCH, and PATCH.

Some people, like me, think that Wordle’s “Hard” mode is kind of silly. I think this is because, instead of making the game harder, it just makes luck play a bigger role. Then again, I might just be scared.

How was Wordle made?

Josh Wardle, a British software engineer who lives in Brooklyn, came up with the idea for Wordle. He’s also made some great Reddit projects like “The Button” and “Place” before, so he knows how to make things that go viral on the internet (opens in new tab).

Wordle was made by Wardle, who named it after himself, for his puzzle-loving partner. He made the first version of the game in 2013, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that he finished it and showed it to his family and a few friends.

When it was released to the rest of the internet in October 2021, its popularity grew quickly. In the next two months, it went from having a few users to having more than two million by the end of November.

In February 2022, The New York Times bought Wordle for a “six-figure sum” because of how well it had done. Not bad for a project with a lockdown, huh?

How does WordleBot work?

The New York Times made WordleBot, a digital tool that helps people learn how to play Wordle. It looks at your last game and tells you where you went wrong and sometimes gives you praise when you did something smart.

If you think of it as a Wordle coach, you won’t be too far off. Even though it won’t tell you the answer (you can only use it after you’ve finished your daily game), it will give you suggestions for starting words to try and tips that might help you in the future.

WordleBot is full of information that you might find interesting, and it also gives you a score for your game. It will tell you, for example, what the average score is per game and what the most common starting words are on any given day.

It’s too bad that it’s no longer free. The NYT put a paywall up around WordleBot soon after it came out last year. You can get access to it with a New York Times All Access subscription, which costs $1.25 per week for the first year and $6.25 per week after that.

Is it still fun to play Wordle in 2023?

Undoubtedly! The purchase of the New York Times didn’t get off to the best start. Some people lost their winning streaks during the transfer, and many players thought that the NYT made it harder right away. But it didn’t. When Josh Wardle made Wordle, the answers were hard-coded into the game, and a different answer was given to each date. Even though the New York Times took out a few words that were controversial and changed the order of a few others, it’s pretty much the same game that came out in 2021.

In fact, the NYT has mostly had a good effect. With a free account option, players can save their progress across devices and lose streaks are much less likely to happen. It’s still free to play, and there aren’t many ads. Yes, WordleBot costs money, and yes, you will be pushed to try other NYT games like Spelling Bee, but Wordle seems to be in good hands overall.

Wordle continues to give millions of people a fun five-minute break from their busy lives, even after the NYT took it over. Even though the number of people who play it has gone down a bit, our US Editor in Chief, Lance Ulanoff, wrote at the end of last year that Wordle is becoming an institution, a daily ritual that many people enjoy just because it brings them closer to their family and friends.

If you’ve been playing for a while, you already know all that, but if you haven’t, there’s no reason why you can’t start today.

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