When Vice President Kamala Harris admitted last week at a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., that she is a Wordle obsessive, The Ringer immediately had questions. Does she have a preferred starter word? How long is her streak? And has she gotten sucked into all the Wordle spinoffs—Worldle? Poeltl? Duotrigordle?!—like the rest of us?
So we called her to find out.
It turns out that Wordle, the daily five-letter word puzzle that has become a national sensation, isn’t Harris’s only gaming habit. And she, like Wordlers everywhere, has some thoughts on the dreaded four-greens-and-one-gray guessing traps. As for hard mode—well, she didn’t even know that easy was an option.
Below, the VP breaks down her Wordle habit, competing with second gentleman Doug Emhoff, and the limitations that come with having a Secret Service–approved cellphone.
Let’s start with the question that everybody debates around Wordle: Do you start with the same word every day?
What is that word?
How did you pick that?
I think that you have to have a healthy mix of consonants and vowels, and a lot of words come with an S. For example, today there was an S and an E, I believe. Did you do yours?
Oh, yeah. This one jammed me up. [Editor’s note: This conversation took place on April 15, a.k.a. Wordle 300, in which the word was SHAME.]
Yeah, me too. It really did.
Do you play on hard mode?
I don’t know what that is.
There’s a setting you can turn on that forces you to keep the letters you’ve gotten right in the same place for your next guess.
That always happens, so maybe I am.
How long is your streak?
You know what, it got messed up when it got moved over to The New York Times. But my current streak is 48.
All right, not bad. I was just traveling last week and it blew my streak. I’m very upset about it. I guess relevant to that, have you ever—
That’s what happens to me too when I’m traveling.
Yeah, I was going to ask: Have you ever been traveling and missed the Wordle before?
Listen, it’s not like I’m going to a beach when I travel. It’s 13-, 14-hour days and, you know, little sleep. So, yeah. Wordle gets put aside.
I must have played it when I was in Poland. But we won’t talk about that, right?
How many guesses does it usually take you to solve the puzzle?
My normal is four. That’s my average.
Have you gotten it on the first word before?
No, but I’ve had six on the second word.
All right. Highly respectable.
Do you genuinely do this to fall asleep? I find word games sometimes get my brain buzzing again. Is this a nighttime ritual for you?
My nighttime ritual is the mini New York Times crossword. And then sudoku, although I don’t think I’ve pronounced that right ever. Wordle, for me, is like a brain cleanser. So it’s in the middle of very long days, back-to-back meetings on a lot of intense issues. If I have a break, let’s say that people are running late or my little 25 minutes for lunch, sometimes while I’m eating I’ll figure out Wordle.
OK, so it’s not like a nighttime, the second gentleman asleep next to you, pull out your phone, and do the—
It is at nighttime, too. It just depends on the day, right? If I was able to get to it during the day—if not, definitely in bed at night. When I can’t sleep it’s the New York Times mini. And also the New York Times Spelling Bee.
I was going to ask about the Spelling Bee. Do you use the hints?
Oh wow, a purist. Do you ever get Queen Bee on that?
Let me ask you something about it, OK? You’re the first person I’ve talked to about this stuff.
No, I’m serious, you are.
OK, so what happens is the Spelling Bee, it says Play and I play, but I’m not subscribed to it because I have a phone that doesn’t allow me to subscribe to anything.
Oh, yeah. OK. Tough.
I guess I get the cheapy free version of the Spelling Bee. I am on the New York Times app. So, have you subscribed to the Spelling Bee?
Yeah, I’m subscribed, so I’m not totally familiar with the free version. But I think you’re right. They don’t let you play all the way through.
They don’t let you play all the way through and it’s really frustrating. They do let you get to, like, in the 20s and then they turn you over and say, “You’re really good at this! Would you like to subscribe?”
It’s really annoying, but it may actually be for the best because I’d probably otherwise spend too much time at night not sleeping.
But the phone just will not allow you to do the actual subscription version of it?
My phone does not. I have a lot of stuff on it that prevents me from doing other stuff on my phone.
Does the second gentleman play as well?
He plays Wordle, absolutely. So we will say, “How many tries did it take you today?” “How many tries did it take you?” “Did you get it?” “Did you get it?” Oh yeah, we are definitely checking in every day about Wordle. He does not do the New York Times Mini Crossword. He does the big one.
He does it most—yeah, most days he does it. I haven’t tracked the same thing with the mini, but he says that it progressively gets harder during the week, the longer one. He definitely does the Sunday one. And I think he does it at least a couple of times during the week.
I mean, he stays up at night doing it. Sometimes neither of us can sleep and then from time to time we’ll say, “What is a five-letter word for—?”
I’ve heard that you’ve been trying to convert your staff over to Wordle. Is that true?
I have, I have. Some of them know it. Some of them laugh about it, because they didn’t know that I know it and that I play it. So that was really funny. And then there are others that I have, you know, in a moment of stress said, “Maybe you should learn how to play Wordle.”
I mean, I think that the design of Wordle is genius. First of all, five letters, but also only one word a day, right? It’s really genius. Because, you know, some other games over the years where you could then just get kind of hooked and really spend far too much time. I think it’s really a smart design.
And again, for me it’s a brain cleanser. It’s just a nice kind of cleansing the palate in the middle of a lot of other stuff.
Do you have any stories of particularly stressful moments where you were able to tune into Wordle or have your staff tune into Wordle and just sort of take that breather?
They’re all classified. Sorry.
Does the staff get competitive with whoever you’ve gotten over into the Wordle camp?
I think they do. You know, what I love about my team is that they don’t tell on each other. But they’re all very competitive because they’re all super smart. And they love games, when you can play and have fun with each other.
I know a lot of people like to share their green and yellow squares. I know you don’t tweet it out or anything. But have you ever sent that over to your sister or anything like that?
No, because my phone does not let me do that. My phone doesn’t let me text anybody, which is sad.
Do you play any of the Wordle variants? There’s Worldle, where you see the silhouette of a country and you have six guesses to name it, and Quordle, where you play four games of Wordle at once. Do you know any of those?
No, no, no, I didn’t—no. No, I don’t. Literally there would be no time for all of that. But I will tell you, for example, today on the second try, I had three [letters] in the right place. The first, the third, and the fifth.
I had the same problem.
It was the same thing in the second and the third one. In the fourth I got four letters except for that fourth letter in the lineup. And that letter—like, you could go into probably six possibilities if you have the first three and that last one. That’s when it’s pure guessing. It would be interesting if there was a clue. But you got it today, right?
I did, yeah. But I got it in six. How many did it take you?
It took me six! I couldn’t believe it! Let me tell you what I had. Number two is SPARE. Number three, SCALE. Number four, SHAPE. Number five, SHAKE. And then of course we know what it was.
Right, right. I was also furious at this one so you are not alone.
Yeah, it was really kind of annoying. But I think they’re so funny—I remember when I first got one on the sixth and the feedback is PHEW!
And it is, right? Your streak would get snapped. It’d be terrible.
Yes. Because I have 100 percent, and I intend to keep it that way.
Well, I will have my fingers crossed.
Thank you for the break in the day. It’s wonderful to talk with you about something like this. What a great job you have.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
It’s a nice break to talk about it. I grew up in a family where the thing that we do together after a family gathering is we play games. Board games, card games. My grandfather taught me how to play poker when I was a kid, five-card stud. So it’s kind of just part of how I grew up. We had lots of games in terms of board games, card games, and to this day that’s how our family is. This was just right up that alley. And actually, it was our son who turned me on to Wordle months ago.
So do you all compete with each other in the family?
Well, the thing again is that they do, those who can text. But I can’t text. But Doug and I do because I see him every day so I can tell him.
I think the competition part of it is so much of the fun of it.
It is the best part of it.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.