The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

NYT changes Wordle answer in wake of leaked Supreme Court draft opinion

The Wordle game. (Photographer: Brandon Bell/Getty)
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Some days, the Wordle can feel serendipitous. Maybe you get “STEAK” as you’re marinating some rib-eyes for dinner or “TRAIN” just after you’ve settled into your Amtrak seat.

Monday’s Wordle answer, however, felt a little too synchronous with the news — and left the New York Times scrambling to change it in real time. The original answer on the day after Mother’s Day and the week after the leak of a draft opinion from the Supreme Court that would overturn the right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade was “fetus.” It replaced it with a benign word.

Wordle is a free game in which users have six chances to guess a five-letter word each day. Each guess reveals which letters are in the correct answer. The word resets every day, and much like in Scrabble, the meaning of the word is irrelevant to the game.

Today “some users may see an outdated answer that seems closely connected to a major recent news event. This is entirely unintentional and a coincidence — today’s original answer was loaded into Wordle last year,” the Times said in a statement, raising the question of why “fetus” ever seemed like a particularly good idea for the word game.

Wordle is our new drug: Five letters. A rush of dopamine. The new word game soothes the covid blues.

The Times purchased the game for an undisclosed figure described as being in the “low seven figures” in January from software engineer Josh Wardle, who created it a year prior. On one Sunday in January, more than 300,000 people played the game, according to the Times.

The newspaper said that “current Wordle technology” makes it “difficult to change words that have already been loaded into the game,” which is why users who had not refreshed their browsers early enough received the original word. Instead of posting their scores on Twitter, a hallowed tradition, many confused players asked why they received a different word from their friends.

It also led to a spate of acerbic jokes. “Apparently, ‘fetus’ is a four-letter word to the #Wordle deciders,” tweeted the Boston Globe’s Mark James Pothier.

“This is where our timelines officially split. Half of the US gets FETUS as their WORDLE of the day and half have their reproductive freedom removed. Into which terrifying dystopian future are we heading now?” tweeted New York City-based radiation oncologist Fumiko Ladd Chino.

“I am incapable of rising above noticing the poetic irony of the New York Times removing a ‘FETUS’ from Wordle in an attempt to avoid being political,” noted Kotaku editor John Walker.

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