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Byrd in five parts? Wordle inspires sacred mimicry

28 January 2022

A recent Byrdle success by our reporter

A recent Byrdle success by our reporter

IF YOU have spent any time on Facebook or Twitter recently, you may have spotted a tide of green and yellow blocks surging across the screen.

According to the New York Times, just 90 people were playing Wordle at the start of November, but, by January, 300,000 were on board. Judging by the Church Times Twitter account, this includes a sizeable number of Anglicans.

Created by Josh Wardle, a software engineer in Brooklyn, the free game is simple enough: you have six chances to guess a five-letter word, and yellow and green blocks confirm whether you have a letter in the right place. Many players choose to share their result online (to the chagrin of some of those yet to embrace the challenge).

For Dr Robert Brignall, a senior lecturer in Combinatorics in the Open University’s school of mathematics and statistics, the appeal lay in “wondering what an optimal strategy might be”. When QuireMemes, a Twitter account dedicated to choir-based comedy, asked whether “Byrdle” — a spin-off requiring choir-related words — could be created, he took up the challenge. By the next morning — 12 January — the website was up and running. QuireMemes announced: “Some of us are choir nerds. Some of us are coding nerds. Robert Brignall is both.”

Starting out as a chorister at Old St Paul’s, Edinburgh, Dr Brignall was a choral scholar at Christ’s College, Cambridge, and, from 2008 to 2010, a lay clerk at Bristol Cathedral. He and his family currently sing at St Laurence’s, Winslow.

While Byrdle is “undoubtedly niche”, there were 30,000 people playing on Friday of last week, up from 7000 on the second day that it was available, he reported this week. After noticing that some people were unfamiliar with certain words (“minim” is usually “half-note” in the United States), he now tweets a short piece of information about each word the day after it is used.

Credit for the speed of Byrdle’s creation goes to the “coding genius” of Mr Wardle, Dr Brignall emphasises. “An ongoing challenge is going to be coming up with new words to guess.” Thanks to QuireMemes and his wife, there are currently 75 words on the list: enough to last until the end of March.

It seems that the spin-offs do not end there. On Monday, Clare Bryden, a writer and artist who founded Websites Ahoy!, launched Prayerdle, inspired by the “simplicity and generosity” of Mr Wardle and the “niche quirkiness” of Byrdle.

“Developing Prayerdle was a whim, a coding and vocabulary challenge building on the work of others,” she explained this week. “But then it occurred to me that it has elements of Lectio or Centring Prayer. As with Wordle, it helps to solve the puzzle if you let go and let it sink into your deep mind. Treat this time as a bridge into prayer.

“Then you can use the solution as your sacred word in Centring Prayer, or as a way into Lectio. Take it with you as you go through the day and reflect on it. If you play the game on your phone, let it bring you back to prayer whenever you look at it and use it for other purposes.”

Sometimes the answer will be a Greek, Hebrew, or Latin word. “Rather than get frustrated, look the word up and see what it has to teach you,” she suggests.

Forthcoming Events

2 July 2022
Bringing Down the Mighty: Church, Theology and Structural Injustice
With Anthony Reddie, Azariah France-Williams, Mariama Ifode-Blease, Luke Larner, Will Moore, Stewart Rapley and Victoria Turner.

4-8 July 2022
HeartEdge Mission Summer School
From HeartEdge and St Augustine’s College of Theology.

More events

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