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Wordle destroyed my marriage for 20 minutes

It was, in a sense, ironic. Wordle was born from a husband’s desire to make something fun for his partner. And for the better part of a half-hour this week, I managed to use it to cause a great deal of consternation for mine. That it was done inadvertently is of no matter.

Consider this a cautionary tale, then.

Woman holding an iPhone with Wordle.
Shannon Nickinson is still married to her husband despite his Wordle Whoopsie. Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

On Friday morning, upon completing the day’s puzzle on the third try, I noticed something. There was a redesigned post-game screen, with a new option that apparently had been rolling out for the past week or so. I could now choose to back up my Wordle stats via my New York Times account. “That’s a pretty good idea,” I said to myself in the predawn dark, since keeping that sort of thing in a browser-based cookie isn’t all that robust. It limits you to one device, lest you lose your stats and your streak. It means if you clear your cookies — which is the sort of thing I like to do with my web browsers on a fairly regular basis — you’re starting from scratch again.

So I chose to sync things up and headed off to the gym, relatively pleased that I was this productive on a Friday morning.

After 45 minutes of weights and another 30 on an elliptical machine, I returned home. My wife wasn’t far behind after walking the dog, and she grabbed her phone to get her Wordle fix for the day.

Only, it looked like she’d already done it. There was no new puzzle to solve. Understandably confused, she asked if I’d done it and whether I had the words she saw on the screen. And as soon as that question left her perfect mouth, I felt that feeling husbands get from time to time. When you know you’ve screwed up something innocent, and there’s not a damned thing you can do to fix it.

The problem? She was logged in to my New York Times account on her phone. So when she went to do the Wordle, it pulled that newly synced data from my NYT account.

I had done a good thing badly, as they say. The question was how to fix it. That was going to require a couple more cups of coffee, though, a must for any pre-7 a.m. troubleshooting. But it turns out that once you sync your Wordle to your NYT account, there’s no going back. Consider yourself warned.

Wordle on an iPhone.
Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

Even if there wasn’t a way to make it right for today, that doesn’t mean I had no way to make it better tomorrow. The question was how to detach her phone from my NYT account, thus returning her Wordle to pre-sync status. And then I’d need to figure out how to restore access to the paper of record.

More on Wordle

The first part was easy. Log out of my account in her New York Times app. I also cleared the cookies from her browser, for good measure. (Yes, I knew what that would do, but better to be safe.)

From there, I needed to upgrade my New York Times subscription from “Basic” to “All Access.” The latter comes with a “Bonus Subscription” feature that lets you share it with one other person, along with access to the New York Times Crossword and other games, and the excellent Cooking section. Given that my wife has been a bonus to my life in so many ways, this all made perfect sense.

So Friday’s Wordle was ruined. But she now has her own NYT subscription. She’s got a fresh start on Wordle. And as an added bonus, she says she’ll keep me around for at least another 18 years.

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Phil Nickinson
Section Editor, Audio/Video
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
Today’s Wordle answer changed due to Roe v. Wade
A person plays 'Wordle' on an iPhone.

There are some days when Wordle players get different answers depending on the browser they're using to play the game. Today happens to be one of those days, but for a vastly different reason. The New York Times revised today's Wordle answer because of its unintentional connection to the Supreme Court's impending ruling on Roe v. Wade.

The original answer to Wordle 324 was supposed to be "fetus." Wordle founder Josh Wardle scheduled that solution to show up today over a year ago, long before The New York Times bought the game at the height of its popularity in January. Everdeen Mason, editorial director for New York Times Games, said in a statement that it changed the answer to something entirely different because of its proximity to the Supreme Court's draft opinion that leaked last week and contained a proposal to overturn the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade abortion ruling, which sent shock waves across the country.

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The New York Times has already changed Wordle solutions
A person plays 'Wordle' on an iPhone.

The New York Times is interfering with the possible guesses and answers for Wordle. The new version of the popular word-based puzzle has deviated from the original, which means that some players might not get the same solutions to Wordle puzzles as everyone else anymore.
On January 31, Wordle was acquired by the Times to bolster the news publication's casual gaming offerings. While Wordle isn't gated behind a paywall like many feared just yet, the Times is making gameplay changes despite promising it wouldn't.
The Times' version of Wordle doesn't allow certain problematic words -- which BoingBoing details -- to be used as guesses or solutions anymore. That's understandable, but it has also removed some ordinary words like "fibre" and "pupal" just because they are obscure or too similar to other words. 
Even worse, The Verge points out that this change means the Times' Wordle skipped over "agora," February 14's original word. This means that players who haven't refreshed their browser since starting to play the game will now see different solutions from everyone else.
The Times did officially comment on the matter, telling ABC News reporter Michael Slezak that "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."
While The New York Times does recommend that people just refresh their browsers to access the new list, a puzzle game that's only supposed to have one answer now having multiple is a big problem. It also compounds issues some players were already having with win streaks carrying over.
This whole debacle shows that even Wordle wasn't immune to acquisition woes, even if they weren't the paywall-related problems we originally expected. Avid Wordle players are best off refreshing their browser or redownloading the game for the smoothest experience, but this issue will likely explain any future confusion one might have if someone posts a Wordle with a different answer.

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Move over, Bungie: New York Times acquires Wordle
A person plays 'Wordle' on an iPhone.

Wordle, a popular word-based puzzle game that's dominated social media feeds in recent months, was acquired by The New York Times Company on January 31. It was the second significant gaming-related acquisition of the day, following Sony's $3.6 billion acquisition of Destiny developer Bungie. 
The New York Times did not share the specific price of the acquisition, but did say in its announcement that it paid creator Josh Wardle an amount "in the low seven figures." That's a much smaller figure than Sony's acquisition, but Wordle likely reaches a lot more people than even Destiny 2 currently does. 
Wordle is simple, engaging, and easy to share on social media. Image used with permission by copyright holder
While The New York Times is primarily a news publication, it has expanded into casual gaming in recent years. "The Times remains focused on becoming the essential subscription for every English-speaking person seeking to understand and engage with the world," its article on the deal said. "New York Times Games are a key part of that strategy."
Wardle claims New York Times Games played a part in the October 2021 creation of Wordle, adding that "this step feels very natural to me."
It sounds like The New York Times could eventually put Wordle behind a paywall. "The company said the game would initially remain free to new and existing players," The New York Times article notes, with "initially" being the keyword there. Thankfully, Wardle promises that Wordle will still be free and that wins and streaks will be preserved once the game transitions to The New York Times' website.
The New York Times highlights how it wants to grow its digital subscriptions to 10 million by 2025. Locking Wordle behind that subscription would undoubtedly drive some people to subscribe, but The New York Times also risks Wordle losing relevancy and upsetting a happy player base if it does that.
That's not something we'll have to worry about for now, as Worlde is still available for free online.

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