Salary Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.
One of life's modest pleasures that reliably sucks people in is the thrill of solving a puzzle. It's even better if the puzzle relates to something common or familiar, and even better than that if the puzzle can be completed in just a couple of minutes. A language-based puzzle such as a crossword puzzle is a prime example of this commonplace phenomenon.
Crosswords puzzles can take 10 or 15 minutes even for true wordniks, however, and longer for casual participants. What if there were a word-guessing game that limited you to six guesses and asked you to identify a single five-letter word? There is, of course, precisely that thing, and it took the world by storm during the mental and emotional doldrums of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Initially the brainchild of New York-based software engineer Josh Wardle, Wordle (see what he did there?) first appeared in October 2021. The elegantly simple daily brainteaser attracted so much participation so quickly that the New York Times paid Wardle upwards of $1 million to acquire his creation just a few months after its launch.
Shortly before the emergence of Wordle, the Times word game Spelling Bee, in which players attempt to find words in a seven-letter grid shaped like a honeycomb, experienced an explosion in popularity. After kicking around in print since 2014 and online since 2018, Spelling Bee also captured the belabored imaginations of COVID-confusticated puzzlers in mid-2021.
Two years later, the pandemic has largely subsided, but daily interest in World and Spelling Bee remains strong. How strong? So strong that there are people who get up at 3 a.m. to solve the new Spelling Bee as soon as it's available. And Wordle spawned so many imitators that there's one game where you can essentially solve 32 Wordles at once.
Or maybe it's all just in the heads of a faithful few that Wordle and Spelling Bee have taken over the word puzzling world? Maybe one is super popular and the other one is just for nerds? (Word nerds, naturally.)
So, yes, when the 2023 Salary Survey was taking shape at the end of last summer, it occurred to us that many certified IT professionals probably engage with one or the other. Wordle, don't forget, is actually the brainchild of a software engineer. And since we're fond of drawing lines in the sand, we decided to determine which word game is the truest and best.
Here's what we learned:
Q: Wordle or Spelling Bee (the one that has the pangrams)?
Wordle — 17.8 percent
Spelling Bee — 23.5 percent
Both — 16.9 percent
Neither — 18 percent
The only true word game is Scrabble (and all of the Scrabble clones/knockoffs: Wordfeud, Words with Friends, etc.). — 23.8 percent
Interestingly, more certified IT professionals would rather play the long game — literally — by engaging with Scrabble or one of its digital clones, than would rank either Wordle or Spelling Bee as the acme of word puzzling. (Another IT guy, Norwegian developer Håkon Bertheussen, made himself a millionaire by creating the web-based Scrabble copycat Wordfeud.)
Perhaps in keeping with this trend, Spelling Bee has a bit more "greatest and best" energy than Wordle. Maybe certified IT professionals by nature would rather have something that provides a more robust diversion than the admittedly more byte-sized digital delights of Wordle.
The remaining two segments of survey respondents either love word games so much that the combination of Wordle and Spelling Bee provide a daily feast — or at least a prebreakfast appetizer — or they don't engage with either.
It is notable that a mere 18 percent of those surveyed don't have any truck at all with word puzzling. Flip that around and you'll find that more than 80 percent of Salary Survey participants crave some form of engagement with word puzzles. Playing with words, it would seem, is something that brings most of us together.