Warning: This story contains a spoiler for the Jan. 21 Wordle. Read at your own risk.
Not to brag, but the other night I got the Wordle right in two tries: one green letter in my first try, and then all five in my next attempt. The word was shire. I cackled aloud and waited for my partner to finish the puzzle. (We’re a “log on to Wordle at 12:01 a.m.” house on the weekends, if we happen to be awake.) Actually, I am trying to brag, because I’m extremely proud of myself—and that’s what I wanted to do when I went to post my success to my Instagram story. Wordle makes it easy to share your performance without ruining that day’s game for anybody who hasn’t played it yet. You share a grid of boxes in black, green, and yellow denoting your path to, ideally, finding the right answer. I copied and pasted my two rows of boxes and added some music: “Concerning Hobbits,” a recognizable tune if you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings films.
“That’s a spoiler,” my partner, her Wordle now complete, told me. “Don’t post it.”
I thought about it for a moment and decided she was right. While the song, to me, felt like a subtle reference that a viewer would miss, it might actually have been enough to ruin the fun for someone. On Twitter, I saw multiple people posting their Wordle boxes for the day and calling the puzzle “tricksy.” Another Lord of the Rings reference that if you were, say, somewhere on guess three and had made it to “SHIFT” would have absolutely given you your answer.
Today’s puzzle—spoiler ahead for Jan. 21’s Wordle—seems to have had a similar effect on people. The answer was “PRICK.” A colleague of mine wrote in Slack that the answer, which she didn’t state explicitly, had made her “LOL” and defined it as a “good word.” A few minutes later, another colleague said these vague messages still helped her to figure out the answer. This exchange, I should note, was entirely pleasant. Nobody was actually blaming my colleague for saying the word made her laugh out loud. It did, however, get me thinking about the micro-spoiler Wordle economy. Like how on Twitter, the word horny was used as a supposedly spoiler-free commentary so many times that it did, in fact, become a spoiler.
To be clear, I am not famous or an influencer. I do not have a giant audience on Instagram whose daily game of Wordle could be spoiled by a post from me. But the inverse experience would have made me mad. In fact, it has: The other day, I saw a friend from college who had posted not the colorful squares but instead a screenshot of all her Wordle attempts, uncensored. I glanced at them vaguely before hastily replying, “NO SPOILERS!” and swiping away. Lest you think she’s a villain, my kind friend gently informed me this had been … the previous day’s Wordle. I apologized and realized how genuinely bummed I was at the fleeting thought that I wouldn’t get to play that particular day. (And then what would be the ethical choice: to get it right in one turn knowing that my statistics would be falsely inflated? to get it right in six tries, to absolve myself of feeling like a cheater? or to not get it right at all?) It sounds silly—in fact, I know it is silly. But these pandemic times have moved from incredibly trying to outright sucking, and I’ll take any tiny modicum of glee where I can find it. Right now, that’s Wordle.
I have friends who think even posting your letterless squares is to post a spoiler. If you get the sense, based on seeing people’s tweets about their own Wordle attempts, that the word is tricky, you’re more likely to open up with a left-field guess. Or, even more specifically, if you happen to know a person plays the same opening word every game—like the vowel-optimized “AUDIO”—you’ll always be swayed in your own decisions. That’s a bridge too far for me. Keep posting your scores—I like to see them. But save the commentary. If your joke is actually that good, it’ll keep for 24 hours.