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The Margin: ‘If you consistently get Wordle in 3 or less, you are cheating’: Players of the popular word game use shortcuts of all kinds

You may be an ace at Wordle, the daily New York Times
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word-puzzle game that’s become a fixation for many Americans since its October launch. But there’s a good chance your friends think you’re cheating your way to success.

A new survey from the game website Solitaried found that 29% of those polled believe people who regularly solve Wordle in short order — meaning in three guesses or fewer — are probably employing less-than-honest means to achieve their impressive results.

Still, not that many Wordle players say they actually cheat. The same survey found that only 14% admit to doing so. 

Wordle players have up to six tries to guess a five-letter word of the day, with the game offering feedback after every try. If a player identifies one of the correct letters, Wordle will highlight it in a shade of yellow. If the letter is also in the right position in the word, the highlighting is in green.

Key to the game is that it easily allows players to share their results on social media (without revealing the correct word). Hence, the posts that declare “Wordle in 5” or “Wordle in 3” (or, more rarely, “Wordle in 2”). 

It’s that sharing — or, some might say, bragging — that could be arousing suspicions concerning cheating. 

Or, at least, that’s how some Wordle players view the matter, judging from observations also posted on social media.

Indeed, players do use Google
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to find the correct word — or find clues online that will lead them to the right answer, according to Maria Szatkowski, a researcher with Solitaired. She also says it’s not unusual for someone to ask a spouse, partner or friend who’s already solved the day’s puzzle for the correct word. 

Szatkowski says that she, too, is “skeptical” about those who say they never cheat at the game. The Solitaired survey noted that Wordle cheaters make it something of a habit, with 91% saying they do so one or two times per week. 

Wordle started life as a daily puzzle developed by software engineer Josh Wardle — the game’s name is something of a play on his — that was introduced last year and was made widely available. The New York Times announced earlier in 2022 that it had acquired it for an amount “in the low seven figures.” 

There’s no indication that Wordle fever has since waned. In New York City, one restaurant, HOWM Cocina & Cocktails, has even introduced a weekend Wordle brunch in which players compete for prizes. 

Gizem Ozcelik, a spokesperson for the restaurant, thinks the continued fascination with the game is due to the fact there’s only one new Wordle puzzle each day. “It makes it feel more exclusive,” she says.

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