This photo illustration shows a person playing online word game “Wordle” on a mobile phone in Washington, DC on January 11, 2022. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP)
This photo illustration shows a person playing online word game “Wordle” on a mobile phone in Washington, DC on January 11, 2022. Image Credit: Stefani Reynolds/AFP

“Wordle” is just a word deduction game, but its simple nature belies the fact that it has — in the span of just a few weeks — become a phenomenon. Maybe you’re here because you were enticed by the strange green and yellow squares on social media. Maybe you noticed a dramatic uptick in how much you were hearing the non-word “Wordle.” Whatever the reason, we’re here to answer all your questions about the newest word game craze.

What’s ‘Wordle?’

“Wordle” is a vocabulary game in which players get six tries to deduce a word of the day. Everyone gets the same word each day, and the game can only be played once per day. After each session, players can share their results to social media using emoji that correspond to the game board.

Wordle 1-1642490003331
Image Credit: AFP

The game, which started as a tiny project meant for developer Josh Wardle’s friends and family, now boasts approximately 2 million players. But virality hasn’t been easy.

“[‘Wordle’] going viral doesn’t feel great to be honest,” Wardle told The Guardian. “I feel a sense of responsibility for the players. I feel I really owe it to them to keep things running and make sure everything’s working correctly.”

How do you play?

Start by typing in a five-letter word (we’ve got some tips just below on how to choose your first word). If any of the letters in the word you typed in show up as green, they’re in the word of the day and in that same exact position. For example, if you type in “Walks” and the word of the day is “Sable,” the letter A would light up as green.

If any of the letters in the word you typed show up as yellow, that means they’re in the word of the day — but their placement doesn’t correspond to the letter’s position in the final word. Using the example above, the letters S and L would show up as yellow, since they’re in “Sable,” but not in the right spot in the word.

The letters W and K, meanwhile, would appear greyed out, meaning they’re not in the final word. That means any subsequent word you type should keep A in the same place, shift around the letters S and L, and not use the letters W or K.

Another rule to keep in mind: The same letters can be used more than once in a word.

If you’re still lost, the game’s website has a more detailed description which can be reached by clicking the question mark symbol in the screen’s upper left corner.

What’s up with those square emojis on Twitter?

In this photo illustration, the word game Wordle is shown on a mobile phone on January 12, 2022 in Houston, Texas.
Image Credit: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

The emoji squares approximate the “Wordle” game board, and show how a player reached — or didn’t reach — the word of the day. Green emojis correspond to green tiles or correct letters in the correct position; yellow to correct letters in the incorrect position; and grey or black squares to incorrectly guessed letters.

If you don’t want to see the squares anymore, for whatever reason, you can add “Wordle” to your list of muted phrases on Twitter.

What are some tips and strategies?

The first thing you want to do is type in words that will knock out some of the most common letters, like “Names,” “Shale” or “Slate.” You can also try novelty words that will help eliminate particular sets or combinations of letters. Playing “Adieu,” for example, can help you cross out several vowels at once. The game will only register real words, however, so you can’t hack it by starting with “AEIOU.”

Once you know where a letter goes in the final word, don’t feel constrained to just come up with words that feature that letter in the right position. You can type in words that will eliminate other letters to narrow down the pool of options. Otherwise, you might end up in a situation like this:

It’s also worth remembering that letters can appear in words more than once. If you’ve placed the letters ME_TS, the word could be “Melts” or “Meats” — but don’t neglect to try “Meets.”

Wordle 2-1642489998605
Image Credit: AFP

Where can I play ‘Wordle?’

The only place to play “Wordle” is on the developer’s personal website, which works on desktop and mobile. No dedicated mobile app exists — in fact, Apple recently removed several copycat apps from their App Store — though there is a way to get a shortcut to the browser version of the game by saving the site’s URL to the home screen of an Apple device.

If you’re looking for more puzzles in the same vein, there are plenty of options. You can try “hello wordl,” which lets you customise the word length and play more than once per day. There’s also “Evil Wordle,” which changes the word in response to your guesses, artificially extending the duration of the game.

This photo illustration shows a person playing online word game “Wordle” on a mobile phone in Washington, DC on January 11, 2022.
Image Credit: AFP

Why did ‘Wordle’ become a thing?

A big part of the game’s popularity came from how people were sharing their results on social media. If you weren’t in the know, there wasn’t a link to find out more — just weird emoji square arrangements. And once you knew what those squares meant and played “Wordle” yourself, you could reverse engineer your friends’ attempts through their social posts.

There’s also something nice about the game only being playable once a day, and that it is free and void of advertisements — a remarkable contrast with most contemporary games that encourage repeated engagement. That may be why the backlash was so fierce against a developer who offered a $29.99 premium subscription to his copycat version of “Wordle,” which he also titled “Wordle” and distributed on the App Store. His version, and many like it, were removed from the App Store Tuesday.

Are there updates planned for ‘Wordle?’

No updates have been announced so far, though Wardle hasn’t ruled them out.

“If I do make any changes, I would like to think they are changes I would have made even if it was just [my partner and I] playing,” he told The Guardian.