First, there was Wordle. The simple game offered a new, five-letter word for players to guess every day.
Then, the spinoffs began. Some hewed closely to the original game — like Hardle (a harder version of Wordle) or Quordle (a challenge to solve four five-letter words simultaneously).
But then it went a step further. New puzzles sprung up that asked users not to guess based on words, but rather people, places and things. There was Worldle (identifying countries by their shape), Actorle (guessing an actor by their career history) and Heardle (identifying songs from just a snippet).
Finally, it’s Massachusetts’ turn to shine with MBTAdle, which dares you to guess a specific MBTA trip from Station A to Station B — including two transfers.
Madeleine Barowsky, a 27-year-old software engineer who lives in the Boston area, started on it as a personal project last week. By Wednesday, it was live.
“I just had a few days off for Thanksgiving and was talking about Subwaydle with a friend, and she was like: ‘You should make one for Boston,’” Barowsky told GBH News. “And I was like, ‘You know what? I have nothing but time on my hands right now. Let's do it.’”
She based it on New York’s Subwaydle, which launched in early 2022 to a fanfare of local media coverage that proclaimed it was “perfect for hardcore New Yorkers.” Barowsky used the game’s open-source code and chatted with its creator.
“Once I started, I was just really interested and wanted to keep going,” she said.
Players have to pick a specific route to connect Station A to Station B. (This reporter got Wednesday’s puzzle in two guesses.) There are more than 36,000 permutations, enough that the game won’t repeat the exact same route for 99 years — but it might give you the same two stations to connect.
“It's not going to be the most efficient route most of the time,” Barowsky said. “If you could get there in a few ways, you still have to get the right one according to the puzzle.”
But unlike in New York, there aren’t too many lines — or, too many opportunities to transfer (see: the lack of a Red-Blue connector). So Barowsky got creative.
“We just have like a lot of branching both on the Green and the Red Lines, so I treated them as different trains running on a lot of the same track,” she said. “That's something that a few people have commented on — like, if you're going towards Alewife, it doesn't really matter if you get on a train that originated at Ashmont or Braintree.”
The MBTAdle of today isn’t set in stone: Barowsky considered including key bus routes, too.
“But I wanted to just launch it first and see if people are even interested,” she said.
For first-time players, Barowsky has a few tips for success.
“You should have looked at the map before you played — I think it's kind of cheating to look at the map while you're playing,” she said. “Just remember, there are not that many stations where you can transfer. So, if you don't recognize the station, maybe it's on the Green Line Extension.”