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Community, during the COVID pandemic and its lingering isolation, has taken many forms. Some have recently found a merry group in a series of colored boxes.
You may have seen black, yellow and green boxes popping up in your social media feed.
This is Wordle, a relatively new online word game that has rapidly gained in popularity.
Essentially, each day brings the chance to guess a new five-letter word. If you choose the right letter in the right place, the box is green. If a letter is in the word, but you’ve put it in the wrong place, a yellow box with that letter will appear. Gray means that letter does not appear in the word. You get six tries to figure out the word of the day.
Some people start with the same word every day and, yes, there are sites and algorithms that suggest the statistically optimal words for your first choice based on probability. This, we think, like sharing your scores every day on social media, takes some of the fun out of Wordle.
The point is that Wordle, which doesn’t have an app or require a sign in, is deceptively simple – and addictive (just ask the Bangor Daily News editorial page editor whose first and last names are conveniently five letters long).
There are, as it turns out, a lot of five-letter words.
If you live in a house, a condo or cabin, at the shore, by a creek or on a knoll, each day’s Wordle can be a welcome challenge. No matter if the weather is windy and brisk, balmy and sunny, or there’s a storm, picking letters will make you feel great. It doesn’t matter whether you sport plaid pants, a short skirt, a shirt with cuffs or a pleat; fancy an ascot or scarf; if your shoes are shiny or dirty (don’t forget wooly socks). The words soon fill your brain. Whether you eat liver and onion, steak and beans, pasta and sauce, soups or stews, followed by cakes and cream and a drink of vodka and juice, five-letter words may become your charm.
If you prefer a kitty, doggy or even a fishy or snake, playing Wordle is no shame. Picking the letters can make you happy, vital and proud, ditto for your brain. OK, maybe that’s too much to claim, but we’ll share the blame.
So, why is Wordle suddenly so popular? Its creator, Josh Wardle, believes it is the simplicity and lack of commercialization. He told Slate that he created the game for his partner, who loves word games. The point was to make something simple and fun, not to make money or get attention.
Without push notifications and sign-ins to gather player information “the game feels really human and just enjoyable,” Wardle said. “And that really resonates with where we’re at right now in the world and with COVID … I think that really resonates with people, and no ads — well, no monetization.”
“People ask me a lot about these things, and it was like, I was literally just making a game for my partner, and I made some decisions that we would like,” he added.
One caution: Wardle is British so some Wordle picks may seem a bit Britannic, like shire (we see you Houlton) and tweed (elbow patch anyone?). There are not, however, British spelling of words like favor or savor, because, perhaps, they aren’t five letters long.
The game is so popular it has already prompted spinoffs like Sweardle, a game of four letter naughty words, and Byrdle for music fans. And, if one Wordle a day isn’t enough, there are archives of old games.
Our final words: Be brave, witty and smart.