Wordle has a single daily solution, with all players attempting to guess the same word. Wardle initially created the game for himself and his partner to play, eventually making it public in October 2021. The game was purchased by The New York Times Company in January 2022 for an undisclosed seven-figure sum, with plans to keep it free for all players; it was moved to their website in February 2022. Every day, a five-letter word is chosen which players aim to guess within six tries. After every guess, each letter is marked as either green, yellow or gray: green indicates that letter is correct and in the correct position, yellow means it is in the answer but not in the right position, while gray indicates it is not in the answer at all. Multiple instances of the same letter in a guess, such as the "o"s in "robot", will be colored green or yellow only if the letter also appears multiple times in the answer; otherwise, excess repeating letters will be colored gray. The game also has a dark theme as well as a high-contrast theme for colorblind accessibility, which changes the color scheme from green and yellow to orange and blue. Conceptually and stylistically, the game is similar to the 1955 pen-and-paper game Jotto and to the game show franchise Lingo. The gameplay is also similar to the two-player board game Mastermind—which had a word-guessing variant Word Mastermind?—and the game Bulls and Cows, with the exception that Wordle confirms the specific letters that are correct. Players outside the US have complained that this spelling convention gives American players an unfair advantage, for example in the case of "favor". Wardle initially created the prototype of Wordle in 2013, inspired by making a word-based version of the color-matching game Mastermind; the prototype allowed for endless play, with players able to play puzzles immediately after each other, and its wordlist was unfiltered. Initially, the game used all 13,000 possible five letter words in the English language, but he found that his partner Palak Shah had difficulty recognizing some of the less common words and made the guessing as haphazard as it was in Mastermind. After finishing the prototype around 2014, Wardle had lost interest and set the prototype aside. In the intermediate time, Wardle created the two online social experiments The Button and Place when working for Reddit. Wardle recalled his Wordle prototype and was inspired by two elements from Spelling Bee to flesh out the prototype further: the simple-to-use website design for the puzzle, and the limitation of one puzzle per day.
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