The New York Times has apologized after some players were given the term “fetus” as a solution to the day’s Wordle challenge.
The addition of the phrase comes amid heated public discussion in the United States regarding the future of abortion access.
The usage of the word was “completely inadvertent and a coincidence,” according to the newspaper.
Players are given six guesses to find a five-letter word in this online game.
The New York Times did not detail the answer in a statement, merely stating that some readers might see “an older answer that appears to be closely related to a major recent news event.”
The original answer was loaded into Wordle last year, according to the publication.
Despite efforts to change the word “for as many solvers as possible,” the new, less controversial solution of “shine” was only visible to those who refreshed their browser window.
“We take our responsibility as a place to entertain and escape seriously,” the statement continued. “We want Wordle to stand out from the rest of the news.”
The incident occurred less than a week after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion suggested that the United States was on the verge of reversing Roe v Wade, a landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide.
Some social media users claimed it was not an accident because of the timing.
“We’re supposed to think that the solution to today’s Wordle (before the NYT changed it) is purely coincidence,” conservative radio presenter Jason Rantz tweeted. “Right.”
Wordle is a game created by Reddit engineer Josh Wardle to play with his spouse during lockdown. Each day, users are given one hidden five-letter word. According to the New York Times, the game boasts millions of daily users.
The New York Times bought the game in January for an undisclosed six-figure fee.
Wordle strikes a snag when different responses stir debate
On Monday, the world of Wordle was rocked when the answer to puzzle #324 turned out to be two five-letter words rather than one.
“Hey @nytimes, what’s up? “My wife gets SHINE, and I get FETUS,” tweeted James Cowen, a Wordle aficionado from Melbourne who was so annoyed by the double answer that he disregarded all rules of the game by revealing the answer while it was still online.
“WTF indeed!” said the odd indignant reaction. What are you tweeting the answers for? It was “poor form,” but it also sparked a flood of speculations about what was going on.
Some investigators discovered evidence of cybercrime. “My hubby got the same as you, and I got shine,” a Melburnian tweeted. “Hacked?”
Perhaps it was due to technological limitations. “Just tried it out on my iPhone, got shine on Safari and fetal on Chrome,” said a Brisbane player.
Another said, “Reverse for me.” “Fetus on Safari, Google shine.”
Was Wordle deciding on the winners? “My son received the same treatment as you, and I received shine.” Both easy and difficult. Why?????”
“Perhaps owing to current events in the US they were trying to not have that word be drawn and it glitched and some still got it?” wondered Elle, who lives in Brisbane.
The New York Times, which purchased the game from developer Josh Wardle for $US1 million in January, issued an explanation in the Gameplay section of its website.
“Some users may receive an outdated answer that appears to be linked to a major current news event,” Everdeen Mason, the masthead’s editorial director for games, wrote in a letter. “Today’s original solution was loaded into Wordle last year, which is completely unintended and a coincidence.”
The Times treats the games section “as a place to entertain and escape,” according to Mason, and strives to keep Wordle “different from the news.”
However, now that the US Supreme Court appears to be on the verge of reversing Roe v Wade, the famous 1973 ruling protecting women’s right to abortion, the word “fetus” – which her note didn’t really include – has become about as newsy as it gets.
The problem is, according to Mason, changing a word in the pre-programmed forward list that runs until 2027 is “tough.” “We switched it for as many solvers as possible” when “we discovered last week that this particular word would be presented today.”
Players who refreshed their browser window received the new word “shine,” while those who did not received the original term “shine.”
We’re sure it was a painful experience for everyone involved. But have no fear: the Wordle elves are hard at work improving the program, ensuring that nothing as horrible as a double answer – or the news – will ever disrupt the game again.