Ten months after acquiring Wordle for a “low-seven figure” deal, The New York Times has introduced a major change to the popular five-letter word game: bringing in an editor.

The Times said that tens of millions of people have played Wordle, based on a preset list of words crafted by the game’s creator, Josh Wardle. Now, the publication has named its associate puzzle editor, Tracy Bennett, as the official Wordle editor.

“After nearly a year of speculation, it will finally be our fault if Wordle is harder,” The New York Times said in a recent statement.

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What does having a Wordle editor mean?

Since Nov. 7, Wordle has had “a Times-curated word list,” per The New York Times.

“Wordle’s gameplay will stay the same, and answers will be drawn from the same basic dictionary of answer words, with some editorial adjustments to ensure that the game stays focused on vocabulary that’s fun, accessible, lively and varied,” The New York Times.

The Times noted that plural forms of three or four-letter words that end in “es” or “s” — like “foxes or “spots” — will never be an answer, although players can use those words and other similar words as guesses to help solve the puzzle.

The publication also noted that while the Wordle answers list is curated, the words players can use as guesses are not limited.

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What does the Wordle editor do?

Before The New York Times established a Wordle editor, the answers to the daily puzzle were randomly chosen from a preset word list, Axios reported. This sometimes led to issues, like when “fetus” was the answer just days after the leak of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion that would eventually overturn Roe v. Wade, the Deseret News reported.

Now, with an active editor, the Times can avoid such controversy.

In an interview with Ars Technica, Bennett says she still works from Wardle’s original list of roughly 2,300 five-letter words, but spends anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour a day “looking at the list and seeing things pop out.”

“I’m still choosing words in a kind of arbitrary way, but also in a well-informed way,” she said. “I would call it intuitive, but it’s really based on years of experience working with words from other puzzles.”

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Bennett says she may schedule a week’s worth of words in one day, and then spend time over the next few days studying the histories of those words to sure there are no hidden or derogatory meanings. She said she also strives to create a good variety of answers each week — like not featuring too many nouns or words that have similar patterns.

But the change hasn’t gone over well with all players.


Does having a Wordle editor make Wordle different?

During Thanksgiving week, Bennett opted to program “feast” as the Wordle answer — a thematic and predictable move that for many players took the problem-solving fun away from the game, Axios reported.

In a recent piece for Slate, Lizzy O’Leary wrote how the Veterans Day Wordle saw the answer “medal.” The day before Thanksgiving — a busy day for travel — saw the answer “drive,” and the answer on the big holiday itself was “feast.”

“Folks, I do not want a punny Wordle,” O’Leary wrote. “Wordle should not be cutesy, or themed, or even ironic. Wordle should stay hard and weird. No hints! Especially no thematic hints! People on Twitter should post their scores, and we should be able to scoff privately. ... Wordle’s very randomness is what makes it so great!”

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Jordan Cohen, a spokesperson for The New York Times, told Axios that “while we have not made any decisions about future thematic content, Wordle will continue to be curated to respect the randomness of gameplay every day.”

For her part, Bennett has said she is trying to “maintain the beauty” of Wordle.

“Metaphorically, I think of myself as a steward of the game and not an innovator,” she told Ars Technica. “I’m not trying to change the game, I’m really trying to maintain the beauty of what Josh Wardle created as much as possible and maybe just take a few obstacles out of the way, words that aren’t great. But otherwise, I really love the game and I’m committed to keeping it special.”