So, you succumbed to Wordle.
The deceptively simple five-letter online word game, which went from a one-person passion project with no players in October to a full-blown web and social-media phenomenon as the new year began, is fun and challenging. It engages parts of the brain previously tapped by Scrabble, Sudoku, and, if we’re being honest, good-old Hangman.
But its most distinctive feature—arguably the thing that has made it so popular and addictive for many—is also its most frustrating: You can only play one word puzzle a day.
What, then, are you supposed to do with the other 23 hours and 55 minutes when you’re not guessing five-letter words in rows of black boxes?
The answer, of course: Play games like Wordle to fill the void. Here’s how to find them.
Call them clones, imitators, money grabs, or—if you’re polite—flatterers. There is no official app version of the web-based original Wordle game, but there are plenty of look-alikes. Some of them aren’t copying Wordle, they just use similar mechanics, like guessing the word in a number of tries (like Jotto). How good are these games? In the case of Jotto, the first word I was asked to solve was “Sprue,” a word I’ve never heard used in my entire life because I don’t work in the field of plastic moldings. I won’t be playing that one again.
Others, like the brazenly named Wordie: a word guessing game, have the same color scheme as Wordle. But at least Wordie is completely free to play. Wordex, on the other hand, looks a lot like Wordle and seeks to monetize with in-app purchases, as does Wordlets. Wordus, on the other hand, has no in-app purchases.
These may not be as popular as the original, and your friends probably aren’t posting their scores to Twitter, but these alternatives are available and offer more games per day.
Whether you feel a little dirty playing this behind Wordle creator Josh Wardle’s back is strictly your business.
It wouldn’t be the web if there weren’t remixes of a great idea. The simplicity of Wordle translates well to offshoots that complicate the formula, such as Absurdle and Queerdle, which make the game more difficult or introduce a more specific vocabulary.
The one that made me blush is called Lewdle, an incredibly filthy version that taught me in under five minutes how limited my imagination is when it comes to dirty words.
Games That Scratch the Same Itch
The aforementioned Scrabble and Hangman, of course, use the same part of your brain that’s trying to figure out words from blanks. They each have various offline and electronic versions, from the board game Word Hangman to Pogo’s online version of Scrabble. Many Wordle players also get their daily puzzle fix from The New York Times’ offerings, including its famous Crossword and the Spelling Bee game.
Some have compared Wordle to the old color-guessing board game Mastermind, but not everybody knows that this retro game had a version in the early 1970s called Word Mastermind in which players guess three- or four-letter words.
You can still find the game for about $20 on sites like eBay.
And it’s not a word game, but the tile-by-elimination board game series Azul tickles the cerebellum in a most pleasing way that Wordle players may find just as consuming. So far, there are three games in the series, each with its own rules and tile designs. They each sell for $40. You can find an online version of it and other competitive brainy board games at Board Game Arena.
Want to go completely analog with your own Wordle-themed variation?
Grab a friend and a piece of paper, a Sharpie, and some green and yellow highlighters (gray highlighter for extra credit), and make your own puzzles.
I made a very crude version of the game in Microsoft Word with a 5-by-6 grid and the QWERTY keyboard letters, printed out a blank copy, and set about making my own Wordle clone.
The test word, “Flick” was solved by a proficient Wordle player in four guesses.
It’s one way to play “unplugged” as many times as you like, as long as you’ve got someone to spar with.
It may take me a while longer to figure out how to make a single-player version, but the solved puzzles are definitely easy to send out to Twitter.