Changes to Wordle that didn’t get much attention

tl;dr After the NY Times purged some solutions and available guesses back in February, they quietly reintroduced them as available guesses, and they also shuffled around some of the solutions, without eliminating any.

Wordle was born on June 19, 2021. Perhaps Josh Wardle wanted to celebrate the birth, because the first answer was “cigar.” Being birthed of a nerd, this was known as “Wordle 0.”

Joy often comes with pain, and Wordle is no exception. Wordle was pre-programmed with 2315 answers, so the last Wordle was to have been Wordle 2314, on October 20, 2027. (If you’re into spoilers, you can find all of them here.)

Around Feb 15, 2022, shortly after the New York Times purchased Wordle, they eliminated some words that they felt were obscure or offensive. People noticed because some folks had the original version in their browser cache, and they got a different answer (“agora”) from the folks who wound up with the revised NYT version (“aroma”). “Agora” was the first of six solutions that were eliminated. The other five were “pupal,” “lynch,” “fibre,” “slave,” and “wench.” With 6 fewer words, Wordle will draw its last breath on October 14, 2027.

Wordle not only has its pre-programmed answers, it has an additional pre-programmed dictionary of words that, while not solutions, are acceptable guesses. In the original version, this dictionary had 10,657 words. (Some good sleuthing revealed that the total list was consisted of all the 5-letter words in CSW19, the “Collins Scrabble Words” dictionary.) When the Times removed the six solutions, they were no longer allowable as guesses, and they removed another 19 allowed guesses: “bitch,” “chink,” “coons,” “darky,” “dyked,” “dykes,” “dykey,” “faggy,” “fagot,” “gooks,” “homos,” “kikes,” “lesbo,” “pussy,” “sluts,” “spick,” “spics,” “spiks,” and “whore.”

All of this attracted a great deal of attention. It did mean that some words were not available for guessing. I can imagine an 8-year-old child asking why they are not able to enter “pussy” as a guess, and it’s one of those times when I am just as glad that my own children are grown.

What I have not seen reported anywhere is that the Times has subsequently made additional changes to the answers and to the list of additional allowable guesses. None of it seems scandalous, but read on if you’re curious.

I started futzing with wordle around March 7, and so when I copied out the solutions, I got the shorter list of 2309 solutions, and I got 10,638 additional allowable guesses.

In the past few days, I was surprised to see that the solutions on my word list did not seem to be lining up with the Times. Back in March, “zesty” was scheduled for 4/29, “hasty” on 4/30, and “trash” on 5/1. In the “real” world of the NY Times “zesty” appeared on 4/28, “hasty” vanished, and “trash” appeared today, 4/29. Apparently some other word had been dropped between March 7 and April 28.

Googling did not lead me to any explanation fo this, so I scraped the current version of the solutions, thinking that they had eliminated additional one, but in fact there are still 2309 solutions. How did that happen? Well, it turns out that they took a bunch of solutions (16 of them to be exact), and deported them all to the end. They will be the coda to Wordle’s swan song, starting in late September of 2027. I’m sure we will all still care deeply about Wordle at that point, and will be playing from our lakeside cabins on Mars.

It does mean that Wordle will end with something of a whimper, rather than a bang, but I imagine that they concluded that eliminating more words would be greeted by howls of outrage, and so they decided not to change Wordle’s 10/14/2027 expiration date. I can’t blame them for wanting some quiet, and they seem to have succeeded.

At a friend’s suggestion, I moved the list of these words to the end, for people who don’t like spoilers. And I mean, for people who really don’t like spoilers. You could tell me about a word that will appear in three months and I don’t think that even subliminally it would have much effect on me. My memory isn’t what it once was, and even if it were, I’m not sure that hints about 2027 would do much. But perhaps people will be reading this in 2027. If so, greetings from the Martian lakeside!

Looking at the list of deportees, a few might be considered offensive, like “vomit” or “fanny,” but really? Some are obscure: I did have to look up “ombre,” unlike “agora.” The word “harry” was rerouted from its scheduled appearance as Wordle 284 on 3/30/22, which is why the versions had slipped a day as of 4/28. It’s not offensive, but perhaps it’s considered confusing and/or excessively British, like “fibre”? And maybe “hasty” was bumped because they thought it was too similar to “zesty” from the day before? Mysteries abound, but even my thirst for idle speculation has its limits.

I was curious, though, about the list of allowable guesses. I thought it might be the same, or that perhaps they had subtracted more words. In fact, what I discovered was that they added 27 words. The six words which were eliminated as solutions are now allowable as guesses. The 19 words that had been eliminated as guesses were actually reinstated. And two words were added that had not been there originally: “koran” and “quran.” I was very surprised that these were not allowable Scrabble words according to CSW19.

The other tidbit that I picked up is that there is a subsequent edition of Collins Scrabble Words, CSW22, which eliminated 400 words “deemed to be hate speech … following a directive from Mattel [the manufacturer of Scrabble, who licenses the dictionary].” Well, haters gonna hate, at least on Wordle, at least for the moment.

Here is the output from a little script I wrote to compare them (“A” refers to the February 2022 version, and “B” refers to the current April 2022 NYT version):

[harry] omitted at A[284], before B[284]=stove
[hasty] omitted at A[315], before B[314]=trash
[fella] omitted at A[317], before B[315]=larva
[payer] omitted at A[360], before B[357]=goose
[gaily] omitted at A[382], before B[378]=egret
[hydro] omitted at A[388], before B[383]=flack
[bobby] omitted at A[405], before B[399]=trite
[unlit] omitted at A[438], before B[431]=waste
[octal] omitted at A[442], before B[434]=needy
[eclat] omitted at A[466], before B[457]=doubt
[sooth] omitted at A[473], before B[463]=recap
[liege] omitted at A[476], before B[465]=glory
[unset] omitted at A[498], before B[486]=floor
[vomit,ombre,fanny] omitted at A[523], before B[510]=unite
B[2293...]=[bobby,eclat,fella,gaily,harry,hasty,hydro,liege,octal,ombre,payer,sooth,unset,unlit,vomit,fanny] omitted at end of A

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