Does Wordle, the wildly popular five-letter guessing game, provide a brief moment to escape from reality?
Players who answered “yes” to that question likely weren’t thrilled on Monday.
On May 9 — days after the leak of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion that could potentially overturn Roe v. Wade — the Wordle answer of the day was a little too on the nose: “fetus.”
According to a statement from The New York Times, which bought Wordle in January, this was “entirely unintentional and a coincidence,” as the answer had already been loaded into Wordle last year.
Ahead of Monday’s Wordle, The New York Times said it tried to change the mystery word of the day for as many players as possible. But the current Wordle technology can make that challenging, and people who hadn’t refreshed their browser window received the outdated puzzle.
“At New York Times Games, we take our role seriously as a place to entertain and escape, and we want Wordle to remain distinct from the news,” The New York Times said in a statement. “We want to emphasize that this is a very unusual circumstance. ... We are committed to ensuring that tens of millions of people have a gratifying and consistent experience, every day.”
Wordle fans shared their reactions regarding Monday’s puzzle on social media, CNET reported.
“This shows how sensitive we can be towards current events and afraid of merely thinking about things,” one user tweeted, according to CNET. “Even just mentioning one word related to a hot topic was too much for the NYT. Maybe we should be okay with coming across words that make us think.”
“Josh would have NEVER let this happen,” tweeted another, referencing Wordle creator Josh Wardle.
This isn’t the first time a Wordle game has been altered, CNET reported. When The New York Times acquired Wordle for a “low seven-figure deal” earlier this year, the publication began changing some of the preloaded answers.
“We are updating the word list over time to remove obscure words to keep the puzzle accessible to more people, as well as insensitive or offensive words,” New York Times communications executive Jordan Cohen said at the time.
Since going public in October 2021, Wordle has acquired millions of players and inspired countless variations and adaptations — ranging from movies to math to music, the Deseret News reported.
Wardle, a Brooklyn-based software engineer, previously spoke to Slate about the game’s rise in popularity and his thoughts on these spinoffs.
“I love them,” he said. “As someone who creates stuff, to see people so inspired by something that you created that they want to riff on it, that’s amazing. That makes me feel so good.”
Visit the Deseret News’ running list of Wordle spinoffs.