“If you’ve spent much time on Twitter in recent weeks, you’ve doubtless seen the grids of green, yellow, and gray squares that have swept across the platform. In what felt like the space of a few days, scorecards from the word game Wordle went from novel to unavoidable as a deluge of puzzlers eagerly compared their daily results.” — The Ringer, 1/7/22
Oh, world, life has been so bleak lately. We spend most waking moments wanting to hide under furniture with our cats who are sick of us, our children just sitting there because we literally have no idea whether they’re supposed to be in school anymore.
But at the dawn of the new year, boxes of light and color began infiltrating our sight lines, our screens. We first saw them posted by a guy we worked in cubicles with long ago. He had a toaster oven on his desk, and for three years our hair smelled like singed bagel, but now our continued connection has been worth it, as he’s brought us this, this tiny perfect thing.
It’s Wordle. Not an app, just a site with thirty blank squares and a universe of possibilities. It’s not social media. It doesn’t make us feel as if we’re old, or bad parents, or that we need to make vertical baked ziti and improve our bullet journal game. It is simple, sweet, and true. Our first time, we got BANAL in four tries. It made us forget, for three minutes, that the world is a filthy cesspit filled with rapidly spawning gremlins. It took us back to an earlier time, when there wasn’t a constant buzzing in our left ear, when we could go to seafood buffets without fearing imminent doom, when our biggest worry about school board meetings was running into Cindy. Please, terrible world, just let us have this.
We know that the way things are going, our odds aren’t good. We fear, world, that soon we’ll find out every game we play drains the batteries in our smoke alarms and makes our only streaming service Peacock. Don’t let it turn out that our anti-vax cousin was finally going to get her shot when she found Wordle, and instead she just waits, counting down to midnight for the next game. Don’t make us suddenly realize that it might be weird or sexist, like when we decided to show Love Actually to our teenagers. Just let us type in letters, feeling bold and alive, like our English majors have finally, for once, come in handy.
Maybe Wordle can give us back some sense of control. In this world where we have to constantly slam on our brakes so everyone can back into parking spaces, when the Sex and the City crew has returned after years just to make us watch them go to a series of doctor’s appointments, let us say, “I’ll start with a word with an L and a P and maybe get it on my third try.” Let us say, “This letter’s there, and this letter belongs but in a different spot, and it’s SLUMP, and I got it in two tries, and I’m brilliant. Just a little bit. Right now, at least.”
We know there will be backlash. People will say Wordle represents everything wrong with left-to-right typing, that it’s just Wheel of Fortune without the wheel or the fortune. They’ll say people are no longer listening to their partners, except to notice they just said the word SWEAT, which could maybe be a nice first Wordle word, as it has two vowels and good consonants, plus many Wordle answers are words that seem gross or cranky. As we all are right now, world, because of you.
Let our spouses have the James Webb Space Telescope. Let our parents be excited about Where the Crawdads Sing—we don’t know why. For us, let us have Wordle. And let us be able to continue to love Wordle, even after the think pieces on “Wordle and antiheroes,” after Weird Al’s “Wordle Rain,” after it’s referenced in the third season of And Just Like That, in the episode where Carrie gets bifocals and Charlotte has a hospital scare only to find out she’s lactose intolerant.
Let us still feel that joy we did on our first attempt, and not have it fizzle out, like when we just wanted to buy an air filter online, and sixteen reviews were good, and then one said it would make our children rabid and poison any creature that happens into our backyards. Admit it, world, you keep doing that to us. You do.
Please let us have Wordle. And while we’re asking, let us solve it in one try. You took Betty White, world. It’s truly the least you can do.