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Wordle's vibe shift
On TikTok, users are talking about The New York Times like an abusive partner.
And yet, we are the caulk holding Wordle together. —Kate
Two months ago, I described the world as being “tickled” by Wordle, and said the game and its fandom made me “nostalgic for a past web.” Now it’s my enemy.
It’s my enemy in the way parallel parking is my enemy, or the way I’ll always volunteer to be the one to send the snarky work email on behalf of a group. I don’t do it for the love of it, but because I get an almost sinister satisfaction from the success of it.
This is decidedly not the vibe of Wordle when it took off late last year, and it has everything to do with the Gray Lady in the room. On January 31, The New York Times bought Wordle from creator Josh Wardle for a number in the “low seven figures” (which, if you think about it, is an oxymoron). I texted the news to my parents in all caps.
Suddenly, the vibe shifted. The homegrown, humble game of Wordle receiving the backing of a corporate owner was like watching your favorite indie band get big and do a Doritos commercial. Rather than the story being “Wordle creator unexpectedly gets a ton of money for making something nice” we all saw it the same way: Wordle had sold out, and now we hate it.
Of course, I don’t mean anyone stopped playing it (or if they did, the Times will never tell). But when they do play it, it’s with a heavy dose of skepticism—and conspiracy-minded complaints that the Times is making the words harder. I myself texted this concern to my parents after playing one of the first NYT Wordles.
“They were already mad at the NYT. Then they struggled with a puzzle or two,” Twitter user Matthew Shallenberger theorized about why this firmly debunked conspiracy persists. “It's easy to connect the dots and blame the NYT for making the game harder.”
TikTok's take on Wordle also seems to have shifted, with users sharing strategies less, and shitting on the Times (or even talking about it like an abusive partner) more. My personal favorite: people trolling The New York Times Cooking TikTok account with their Wordle frustration. In one video, the account asks users to suggest names for the Dutch baby pancake they’re making.
“How does Swill sound???” one user asked, referencing a recent word that stumped Wordle players.
“New York Times?” another asked. “How about Caulk.”
The whole thing is maddening. Unjust. A slap in the face to its supporters, and I spit at the thought of it. Anyways:
Wordle 249 4/6