I and three members of my extended family start off each day trying to figure out what is on Tracy Bennett’s mind. Or more specifically, what word she has selected for the popular Wordle puzzle in The New York Times.
Since the game occupies about 10-15 minutes of my morning and keeps me in touch with my daughter, son and ex-husband, Wordle has become an important part of my life. I share the results and comment on my successes and occasional failures with the family and some friends. We bolster each other when a Wordle attempt goes south. And share in the joy of a success – defined as three guesses or less.
Some of my friends post their results on Facebook every day. That seems a little extreme, but who am I to judge what brings them pleasure.
I’d been playing the game for about a year – thanks to my daughter – when I was suddenly curious about who comes up with the daily words. A quick check of the Internet gave me the answer: Tracy Bennett.
Tracy, the article said, had worked as a copy editor for over 20 years and constructed crosswords as a hobby. She applied to be an associate puzzle editor at The New York Times in 2020 and got the job. In November 2022, the Times announced Bennett would be the editor of Wordle, the viral word game.
The accompanying photo was exactly as I would have envisioned Tracy to look. A pleasant face and subdued smile. Gray hair. Glasses with a half-red frame. Late 50s.
I passed the story and photo around to family and friends. We all felt as though we knew her, at least the type. Yesterday, I had a disturbing thought. What if Tracy isn’t a real person but a member of the artificial intelligentsia. I was relieved to discover, based on a couple of interviews, that she is as described, a human being.
A January interview by Erin Clements was a fun read. Check it out. A couple of highlights include the following:
Tracy researches the word choice to make sure it doesn’t have a derogatory secondary meaning that would be hurtful or offensive.
Many of her complaints come from people whose streak has been broken by what they see as an unfair or obscure word. I seem to remember a hue and cry about the word ennui, which I guessed. There were complaints that it was not English but French. Parer, as in a paring knife, and rupee got the most complaints. Condo was also a problem for some, she reported.
A friend suggested that I start with the word adieu. I tried it this morning and guessed the word on the third try. Tracy says it’s a good strategy but not one she would use. Hmm. When she played the game, she started with trace.
It’s nice to put a face with the game and fun to start my morning channeling what Tracy might be thinking about on any given day. For the upcoming Halloween celebration how about ghost, scary or ghoul? We’ll have to wait and see.