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You've heard of Wordle — now get ready for Sweardle and Absurdle


Wordle, if you're not already addicted like I am, is an internet game that's taken over the wordplay world. You guess a five-letter word, and the program tells you which letters you got right and if they're in the correct position. And then you keep guessing. The game's so popular, it's inspired a number of spinoffs, including one that warrants a language warning.

STUART HOUGHTON: My name is Stuart Houghton. I'm the creator of Sweardle, which is a parody stroke tribute to Wordle.

MCCAMMON: Sweardle is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of a five-letter word, you have to guess the day's four-letter word. And by four-letter word, we do mean four-letter word.

HOUGHTON: So with my game, you might start with something like boob or something, you know, quite mild, unoffensive word. Or you could maybe say [expletive].

MCCAMMON: And it plays exactly like the original Wordle all game. You have six tries to test your lewd lexicon. But where does Houghton find his naughty words?

HOUGHTON: Firstly, I racked my brains and thought of every dirty four-letter word I could think, asked a friend of mine who is was very offensive. He provided a few more. And then I had a master list. And I kind of - I thinned it out. I removed all the kind of racially offensive words or really offensive - anything that could get me canceled, basically, or was going to actually offend somebody because, you know, I just wanted this to be a fun thing.

MCCAMMON: Yes, people are still offended by this game but not the way you'd think. Houghton says he's gotten complaints because of words he did not include.

HOUGHTON: I've been contacted quite a number of times by people who are outraged that their favorite four-letter word isn't in the dictionary. I've added one recently for - a number of Scottish people got in touch to demand that I include pish - P-I-S-H - which is - if you don't know, in Scot's slang, it loosely means something of poor quality (laughter) - is a nice way of saying it.

MCCAMMON: Sweardle isn't the only spinoff of Wordle. There's Queerdle, an LGBTQ variation, Wheeldle, which lets you play multiple times a day. And Absurdle.

QNTM: Hi, my name is qntm. I'm the creator of Absurdle, which is a variant of Wordle which is much harder and arguably unfair.

MCCAMMON: That's programmer and science fiction author Sam Hughes, who goes by qntm. Unfair because Absurdle changes the word as you're trying to guess it. So it's all a bit of a moving target.

QNTM: So you kind of have to back the game into a corner. You have to chase it down. And, like, you have to force a scenario where there's only one possible word. And then the game has to give up and give you that word.

MCCAMMON: And why exactly would anyone subject themselves to this?

QNTM: It turns out that the internet at large has quite a lot of collective word power, so I think a lot of people responded very positively to the increased challenge. It forces you to develop a few new techniques because you know the game is going to be trying to hide from you.

MCCAMMON: He says players love it and hate it.

QNTM: So with Wordle, in theory, you can win in one guess. I've won in two guesses a couple of times. Absurdle - you cannot beat it in less than four guesses. Four is the limit. But generally just good luck - you're going to need it.

MCCAMMON: So what led him and so many others to build their own variations of Wordle?

QNTM: Because when something goes viral on the internet, there's always the temptation, there's always the draw to riff on it, to try to remix it, to add your own twist on it.

MCCAMMON: But still, his favorite version of Wordle remains the original.

QNTM: Oh, is it a cop out to say I really like the original? It's completely inoffensive. It's not loaded with trackers or ads. It's very pleasant, which is just a real breath of fresh air. And I have a lot of respect for that. And it's completely free.

MCCAMMON: So if you're done with today's Wordle, take a spin at these spinoffs. That was Sam Hughes, a.k.a qntm, developer of Absurdle, and Stuart Houghton, who created Sweardle.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAMEO SONG, "WORD UP") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.