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Wordle removes “fetus” to avoid association with SCOTUS opinion


Wachiwit | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 05/12/22

The New York Times defended the move, saying they wanted the puzzle to be "distinct" from the news.
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The New York Times edited its hit daily word-guessing game, Wordle, deleting a puzzle that had the word “fetus” as its mystery word. The puzzle was changed to avoid appearing to make commentary on the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion of Roe v Wade, the newspaper explained on Twitter.


Wordle was launched in the fall of 2021, and was bought by The New York Times after the puzzle became a viral sensation. Since it was introduced, millions of people have taken on the daily puzzle. The objective of the game is to guess the mystery 5-letter word in just six attempts.

The difficulty of the game is half the attraction, as the only hint the player gets is whether a played letter is in the word or in the correct spot. With only one word listed per day, players must guess accurately in six turns or they will fail and have to wait until the following day to play again.


In a statement, the publication explained that the word “fetus” was changed to avoid any association with the leaked draft opinion. According to the National Post, the word was replaced with another 5-letter word, “shine.”

The move was a preemptive adjustment, rather than a response to any outrage. The statement explained that Wordle’s daily words are scheduled a year in advance. The New York Times Games department reiterated that they have no intention to make the game topical: 

“At New York Times Games, we take our role seriously as a place to entertain and escape, and we want Wordle to remain distinct from the news,” a New York Times representative wrote.

The statement went on to call the situation an “unusual circumstance.” The company noted that the system was not properly set up for a last-minute word change and not all players would receive the replacement word. The New York Times has vowed to update their program in order to avoid similar instances in the future: 

“We’re now busy revamping Wordle’s technology so that everyone always receives the same word. We are committed to ensuring that tens of millions of people have a gratifying and consistent experience, every day.”

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