Wordle hits a hurdle as differing answers spark controversy


  • On Monday, Wordle had two solutions instead of one. It was not a bonus move, and it was not popular 
  • The mistake came about because The New York Times wants to keep ‘news’ out its puzzles
  • The word ‘fetus’ was pre-programmed by the game’s creator Josh Wardle before the Times bought it in January
  • The Times tried to load an alternative word, but not every user got it

The world of Wordle hit a hurdle on Monday when the answer to puzzle #324 turned out to be not one five-letter word but two.

“Hey @nytimes – WTF? My wife gets SHINE and I get FETUS,” tweeted James Cowen, a Melbourne-based aficionado of the game who was so frustrated by the double answer that he blithely ignored all notions of Wordle etiquette by sharing the answer while the game was still live.

That sparked the odd angry response – “WTF indeed! WTF are you doing tweeting the answers? Poor form” – but it also set off an avalanche of theories about what was going on.

Wordle #324 had two solutions, fetus and shine, but not by design.Credit:Wordle

Some sleuths detected evidence of cybercrime. “My husband got the same as you and I got shine,” tweeted a fellow Melburnian. “Hacked?”

Maybe it was something to do with the technology. “Just tested it out, got shine on Safari, and fetus on Chrome on my iPhone,” observed a Brisbane-based player.

“Reverse for me,” responded another. “Fetus on Safari, shine on Google.”

Was Wordle picking winners? “My son got the same as you and I got shine. Easy and hard. Why?????”

It was Brisbane-based Elle who came closest to guessing the truth when she observed of “fetus” that “maybe due to the current events in the US they were trying to not have that word be drawn and it glitched and some still got it?”

On the Gameplay section of its website, The New York Times, which bought the game from creator Josh Wardle for $US1 million in January, published an explanation.

With protests raging against a possible decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade, the word ‘fetus’ suddenly took on great significance.Credit:Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

“Some users may see an outdated answer that seems closely connected to a major recent news event,” the note from Everdeen Mason, the masthead’s editorial director for games, said. “This is entirely unintentional and a coincidence – today’s original answer was loaded into Wordle last year.”

Mason wrote in her note that the Times treats the games section “as a place to entertain and escape” and seeks to ensure that Wordle remains “distinct from the news”.

But in light of the fact the US Supreme Court appears to be on the brink of overturning Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that protects women’s right to abortion, the word “fetus” – which was her note didn’t actually explicitly mention – has suddenly become about as newsy as it gets.

The trouble is, changing a word in the pre-programmed forward list that runs to 2027 is “difficult”, according to Mason. Even so, “when we discovered last week that this particular word would be featured today, we switched it for as many solvers as possible.”

Players who had refreshed their browser window would get the new word, “shine”, but those who didn’t would get the original word.

Deeply traumatic for all concerned, we’re sure. But rest assured, the Wordle elves are busy tinkering away at the software to ensure nothing as dreadful as a double answer – or the news – can ever intrude upon the game again.

Email the author at [email protected], or follow him on Facebook at karlquinnjournalist and on Twitter @karlkwin

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