Illustration Credit: Timothy R. Butler/DALL-E

The Case of the Missing Wordle

By Timothy R. Butler | Posted at 9:02 PM

Disaster struck a few weeks back. After 291 days straight, my Wordle victory streak crashed and burned. I should say, the computer thought it ended. I got another day’s word correct, but my account was marked as if I’d missed it. Talk about a genuine crisis.

The catastrophe happened in the wee hours. I was up too late, my mind refusing to shut off. Wordle moves on to the next day’s game at midnight, so hours after having extended the streak to 291 on the south side of midnight, I went for 292. Nothing wrong with that by Wordle rules, mind you.

I immediately noticed things were amiss. Instead of a cheerful “Go ahead, add another day to your 291-day streak” cover message when I hopped on the New York Times website, I saw a message void of any reference to my long span of correct words. I went ahead with the game, thinking it a momentary glitch or a tweak to the site. But then, horror: the end-of-game screen reported I had a one-day streak.

(Add 291 to that, please, Wordle.)

I have written previously about my love of keeping streaks going. The streak in question was ongoing from when I wrote that previous piece. To best my prematurely ended streak would take me until mid-December.

My little late-night word game session to try to relax my way to bed now had my brain more alert. This is where I admit that the fiasco bothered me more than it should. I know that. I do.

What could I do? Contacting the New York Times didn’t even cross my mind at first, because customer service is rarely good anywhere and I didn’t imagine the Times had much, well, time for a non-subscribing user’s game tribulations.

I remembered early on Wordle stored its statistics in one’s local browser instead of the cloud and that the cloud side synchronized with that. I pulled up Safari’s developer console and peered in. The data was still there in a format known as JSON! Just a little correction and everything could be ok again.

Alas, no.

No matter how I tried to reset it to what it should be, the site persistently showed that ugly “1” next to “streak.” The fateful game had been played on my iPad, and the previous day’s completed game was still open on my Mac, so I tried to pull the data off of there. Nope.

The streak was dead, Tim.

Come morning, I decided to do the absurd: contact customer service. I considered, but figured they would see through, rushing to subscribe for a month ahead of writing in. No, I’ll just try with my free account. Chat support was nice, albeit proffering standard, unsuccessful troubleshooting. In what I assumed was a way to get me off the line, the agent concluded by suggesting I click the “gear” icon on the Wordle site, go to “Report a Bug” and file a bug report.

I thanked the agent while, in my head, assuming all was lost. I’ve filed plenty of bug reports over the years. They tend to result in action about as often as filling out a survey at Taco Bell results in winning $1,000. (Which is to say, I’ve not yet seen it happen.)

This time I won the $1,000. Or, rather, the 291-day streak. Much to my surprise, an agent wrote back the very same day:

Hi there,

Thank you so much for writing in! I’m happy to report that I have fixed your Wordle streak back to 291. I would recommend refreshing your browser or quit and reopen your app to see your updated streak.

Nah, that couldn’t really be could it? No, sure enough, I logged in and my streak was back in all its glory. 291 days. My thankful reply e-mail may or may not have been punctuated exclusively by exclamation points.

My obsessed side is bothered that the fixed streak didn’t increment to 29*2* days, the correct number including the fateful game that corrupted my data. But, I decided to be thankful and take what I was given. I can live with one “lost” day.

What this column is may depend on your perspective. It could be a measure of the insanity of this writer. Barring that, let’s say this is a shoutout to fantastic customer service at the New York Times. In a world where customer service agents regularly forget their department’s name had the letters “ser” ahead of “vice,” the Gray Lady’s agents came through for something as (gaining perspective for a moment) trivial as my Wordle streak.

I do know it is trivial. Absolutely. But, uh, I’m going to go play day 313 now, just out of, uh, gratitude to the NYT.

Timothy R. Butler is Editor-in-Chief of Open for Business. He also serves as a pastor at Little Hills Church and FaithTree Christian Fellowship.

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