Talking Pundle With Its Creators: A Groan-Inducing, Wordle-Inspired Game
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The Perfect Pundle Primer
As the “-dle” in the name suggests, Pundle is a Wordle-inspired game. Each day, the game delivers a new puzzle for you to complete. Though the game differs from how you solve Wordle each day, Pundle retains that familiar goal of finding the answer before you use up your six attempts.
What sets Pundle apart from Wordle and other games like it is that the Pundle answers aren’t simply five-letter words. They are puns. When you start a Pundle puzzle, the first thing you’ll see is a message or question. This is your clue to what the punny answer is. From there, you work to deduce the groan-worthy pun you are meant to find.
How You Play Pundle
The way you play Pundle couldn’t be simpler. Managing to find the answer to each puzzle, though, is a different story. It’s definitely not the same as finding Wordle answers.
Once the puzzle starts and you’ve read the opening message, you’ll see a series of blank spots where the letters go. This will look familiar to anyone who enjoys playing hangman.
Beneath the blank spaces is a keyboard. Tap one of the letters to check whether or not it is part of the punny answer. If it is, every instance of that letter will populate in the answer, just like Wheel of Fortune. If it isn’t, you simply move on to the next turn.
Above the keyboard and beneath the blank spaces is a set of six empty squares. As you choose letters to guess, they will fill these squares.
After your sixth letter, if you have not already solved the puzzle, the game will ask you to fill in the rest of the missing letters. If you pick just one incorrect letter at this point, you fail the puzzle. The game will then reveal the pun.
To win the game, find every missing letter before your sixth turn or correctly fill in the answer at the end without missing a letter.
By the Numbers: Fun Pundle Stats
If you take a look on Twitter and search for Pundle, it will quickly become clear that many people enjoy the game. Pundle creators Cory Anotado and Chris Carrion were kind enough to share some statistics surrounding their game.
15,000 unique people play and have played 43,000 different games. (From March 25 to April 25, 2022)
Players visit from 119 different countries. This includes places where English is not the primary language, like Spain, Cambodia, Nepal, the Faroe Islands and Macau.
The top 10 cities for Pundle are New York City, London, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, Toronto, Atlanta and Baltimore.
80% of people play Pundle on their phones or other mobile devices.
Most people play between 8:00 a.m. and noon; the dinner crowd shows up between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. (Both times EST.)
Joking Around With the Pundle Joke Masters
WordFinder: We’ll start by letting you two introduce yourselves. Is there anything you’d like to mention about who you are, what you do and what you enjoy?
Cory Anotado: My name is Cory Anotado. For the past 20 years, I have been making online games. So, really, everyone ripped off [my work]. No, that's not true. But yeah, I started making Flash games at the age of 12 or 13. And then Flash came and went, and I decided not to learn anything new and kept making games in Flash.
One of the games I made was Pundle. Pundle is a game that is made in Flash and is on the computer and 1,000 people play it every day.
Also apologies for all the construction noise. They're retiling my bathroom right now because I have been without a bathroom, any bathroom, in my home for two weeks at this point. And I hate it with every fiber of my being.
Christian (Chris) Carrion: See? And you said you wouldn't have any fun facts about yourself, Cory.
WF: Well, Christian, if you want to try to top that.
Chris: My name is Christian Carrion. I'm the news editor at buzzerblog.com, a site that Cory created 15 years ago. I actually met Cory online playing his games. It's gonna sound funny, but I grew up playing his games on the computers at the public library. Our friendship has progressed in a really cool way.
Fast forward 15 years, and now we're making games together. And we're having the time of our lives. We're really having fun being creative. Excellent creative partner.
I've been a contestant on six game shows since I turned 18. Huge game show fan, huge into music and board games and trivia and word games. Wordle becoming a thing this year has rekindled my love of that type of game. So anything involving anagrams, anything involving words, I'm an enormous fan of. That's part of how we created Pundle. And I'm sure you'll ask how it came about. So, I'll save that story for the question itself. But that's yeah, that's who I am.
Cory: I was on game shows too. I've most recently been on Jeopardy!, where I lost. I was on a kid's version of Jeopardy! as a child. I lost that too. I was also on Wheel of Fortune. I lost that too. I was on The Chase the same month Christian was on The Chase.
Chris: Cory did much better than I did. I actually did the math a couple of months ago. I've won, I think in total, about $23,000 amongst all six shows I've been on. I've lost about $1.3 million.
Cory: Wow. Do you get to write that off in your taxes?
Chris: Lord knows I've tried.
The Birth of the Pundle Online Game
After introductions, our conversation shifted to our most burning question: How did Pundle come to be?
WordFinder: So, about the creation of Pundle. How did that happen? What inspired it? What was that moment when you guys realized, “Wait, we can make a fun themed game”?
Chris Carrion: It was kind of bizarre actually, Cory and I went to a game convention in Baltimore in January. Other than selling Cory’s game that he created, my goal was to find pins, wearable pins that related to games that I liked. And a lot of those were really obscure and I couldn't find them. So I said, “Once I get back, I'll start making these myself.”
I started making wearable bead art. And while I made my bead art, I used to watch a game show called the Definition. Definition was a game that came out of Canada. And there's a website that's like the Netflix of Canadian game shows. They have hundreds of episodes of Definition, and it's all about hangman with clever terrible puns. Again, Iove wordplay, love anagrams, love word games, so it was the perfect background viewing for me while I made bead art.
One day, I texted Cory and said, “You know, Definition would be a really fun daily game to play.” We had already fallen waist-deep into Wordle along with all of our other friends. So that was the genesis of it.… Then, we had fun thinking up the name. Cory was the wizard behind the graphics of it, which we get a lot of compliments about. I don’t think I’m missing anything, Cory, am I?
Cory Anotado: No, I think you pretty much nailed it.
So my goal was, first and foremost, to [preserve] the history of Pacdude Games. Over the decades of making games online, a lot of people have very fond memories of some of the games that I made, because either there were no official game show versions of those games when I made them (like Deal or No Deal), or they were fun remixes on how certain game shows were played. My first really popular game was a take-off of Press Your Luck, except the Whammies were pineapples.
…So, the first step for me was to make sure that those games were archived and playable because I had heard from many people, Christian included, that the games that I made were very important parts of their formative years. And I'd like to maintain that as long as I can.
But then the second goal was to create new experiences with this newfound thing because I didn’t feel like learning any new languages, programming-wise. There's too much. I'm old. I'm tired. But the goal was to create some new experiences, making sure that I take full advantage of not only Ruffle but the [other] new technologies.
We have the ability to play things now on phones and stuff. So once Ruffle was released, I made a version of the Card Sharks Money Cards game, which had over 250 different voice clips of host reactions. There are like 40 different opening poems like Card Sharks used to have. It's very silly. But I worked really hard on that. And then from there, [the work] extended to see what we could do to make these experiences more integrated.
… We did maybe a week or two of testing, and Christian wrote a few puzzles. We played around with it via text, and then [we played] live in the app and on the website. And then we launched it on March 1, which was really handy for us, because then I could remember when we launched it.
WF: So, that's the technical side of it. Christian, you write all of the puns. What's it like from your side? As in the content side of putting it all together?
Chris: Well, it's funny. The first reaction Cory had to the idea of making this game was something to the effect of, “Well, we'll have to write 365 puns.”
And I took that personally.
So, I took it as a challenge, and I wrote maybe 40 within the next day or two. I've always had a mind for anagrams and wordplay, and I've always had an appreciation for puns. I've been asked before how I do it and how I come up with them. I've yet to come up with a great description for it. It's some sort of weird byproduct of my thought process. If my brain is a machine, the puns are just like the stuff that comes out the side of the machine. I have no idea how to put that into words, but I wrote about 40 of them, and 40 turned into 80. And right now we have about 200 written and I have about another 150 in reserve. We're almost to the goal of having the game playable year-round. And it's been a lot of fun writing them.
One of the first things I do every morning is check the game to see what puzzle is loaded for that particular day, just to see what I've done. And then I look at the reactions on Twitter, and it's fun to track it and see how much fun people are having with certain puzzles.
Sometimes they're very esoteric, and they're very not good. (Laughs) They're not good puns. And I love getting the arguments and the reactions from those. But most of the time, they're really, really well received. I know it takes a lot of brainpower to wrap your head around a pun-based puzzle, and I'm actually very pleasantly surprised that the game has gotten the reaction that it's gotten.
WF: Well, the first rule of pun making is that a pun is funny if it’s funny to you.
Chris: It's very true. Also, it makes Cory swear at me. What I'll do is I'll workshop with Cory through text. I mean, this has to be one of the only games created solely through iMessage. A lot of times, if I'm particularly proud of a puzzle, I’ll workshop with Cory through text, and I cherish his reactions.
Cory: If I get them, I really like them. And I never tell you I like them when I get them. But I also like them when they're [expletive]. … The last one you sent me, I liked. I just solved them if I liked them. And then, if I actively sigh when I read them, then I know you should probably put it in the game.
Chris: Which is the goal, anything that gets like a groan or a sigh. I spend a lot of time on Twitter telling people I write all the puzzles. If you hate them, it will make me write more. For every puzzle you hate, I will write another six.
… I'm actually looking at the list of puzzles I haven't added to the game just yet. I have about 40. Whenever I think of a puzzle, I take my phone out and jot it down. And one leads to another. I find that I get into these zones where I can think of you know 10, 15, 20 at a time, but I'm looking at this now, and I'm just envisioning the destruction that these will cause.
Cory: And sometimes I like to get in on the action too because I think I'm all that and I'm usually not. But, sometimes, I will send Chris what I think are very good puns. And then he will tell me things like, “That one was so bad, I now literally smell [expletive].”
Chris: (Laughs) I didn’t say that.
Cory: And then that specific puzzle, I set for my birthday. I'm very excited for that one.
This talk of special birthday puns brought up another question we had about puns for special days and events.
Cory: We've done a few.
Chris: Yeah, we did one for National Nurses Day. And we have them planned out pretty well in advance. So, when we think of certain holidays that would fit a puzzle really well or puzzles that would fit a holiday well, we'll jump in there and replace whatever's in there for that day. Thinking of the puzzles is an ongoing process. But yeah, we're trying our best to come up with some holiday-appropriate [puzzles], and we're experimenting with, like, a narrative. Maybe we'll do a few puzzles that tell a story over the course of a few days.
Sources of Inspiration for Pundle
Our talk of wordplay brought us to Pundle’s similarities to the popular newspaper and app game, Just Jumble, which Chris and Cory had a lot to say about.
Chris Carrion: I love Jumble. That was definitely one of the inspirations behind my love of word games. I grew up playing Jumble and Scrabblegrams and a lot of games like that. And we've gotten comments about the writing being similar to Jumble. It’s definitely high praise.
Cory Anotado: Oh, yeah, you're very good at jumbling and jumbled-type puzzles. So I'm sure you got a lot of inspiration from that. I can't stand those kinds of things because I'm bad at them. And that's where I've grown as an adult: If I’m not good at the thing I don’t like the thing. And that has made me happy.
Chris: The anagramming thing goes way back. My wife's theory – this is my origin story – when I was 13 an–
Cory: Anagrams killed his parents…
Cory: …and from that day, he vowed revenge.
Chris: So, this is gonna sound funny, but when I was 13, I got hit in the head with the door at Kmart. And ever since then, I've been incredible at unscrambling and scrambling letters and anagrams. And my wife tells you that's what it was, it was the door.
Cory: He also drools uncontrollably. We're not sure if that's related either.
Chris: That was only for the first few months afterward.
Cory: Going back to the timeliness of the puzzles, we're one of the few daily word games that have really taken advantage of days so far (that we've seen). I know for April 1, we had an April Fool's Pundle, which wasn't a pun at all, which was great. Do you remember what the puzzle was, Chris?
Chris: I do. The clue was “A bird’s favorite social media platform.” And the solution was
“Birds do not use computers.” And it went over just as well as you (Cory) thought it would.
Cory: We got enough people saying “That's not a pun.” To which we could reply, “Happy Today.”
How Pundle’s Gameplay Came to Be
Our discussion of how the puns come to life then brought us to a question we had about how Pundle works and the rules they chose for the game.
WordFinder: How did you decide how Pundle would operate? Especially the rules like only being allowed to pick one vowel per puzzle. And how you need to guess the answer in six guesses. And then the ending where you play Wheel of Fortune-style and need to have to answer it all at once.
Cory Anotado: So, I think we always worked back and forth that it would be some kind of a hangman-based system. It was just figuring out the most ideal way to continue to meet the expectations of people who are playing these daily games. We looked at “how can we solve this?” “How can we make this happen in six guesses?” Because that's one of the things all of these games have in common, it's always approximately six guesses or some kind of set guess, and that’s your score. And from there, I started to think about how we can make it challenging.
And one of the ways that we did that was harkening back toward Wheel of Fortune a bit. Because, if you use all six letters, you're using RSTLN and probably E. That's one of the metrics we have that we look at in hindsight. How much of this puzzle can you guess if you were to just guess RSTLN and E? And does that have any effect on whether people get it or not? No, the answer is that [it] seems to make no difference. But it is something that we actively looked at.
We didn't want people to spam all the vowels. We also didn't want to have to be cognizant of, “Oh, if we write a puzzle with a lot of vowels, and people guess all of the vowels….” I wanted to make the game as easy as possible for Chris to insert material without thinking too much about it. And so, the basic rules are no punctuation. That's about it, really.
Chris Carrion: And there's a certain length that I tried to hover around. None of them are massively long. I will also mention that… developing the mechanics of the game involved a lot of trial and error. I seem to remember that when we first had the idea for the game, my idea was to, instead of having the player pick letters, we would reveal the puzzle one letter at a time starting with A. So all the A's come in, and all the B's would come in, and you can hit the button and reveal letters one at a time. But we found very quickly that that sucks.
And even the idea of the Enter button came remarkably late in development. Originally, I remember showing the game to my friends at work, and a lot of them hit the wrong letter because it used to be that you hit a letter and it would go into the puzzle or you'd be wrong. And if you were wrong, it was game over. It was very, very strict. And a lot of my chubby-fingered friends would hit the wrong letters, and were like, “I tried to play your game, and it wouldn't work.” So we had to get in there and fix that.
But it was fascinating, developing a game to that degree. That's something Cory has a lot of experience in and I have relatively little experience in. So, being on that part of the journey was really, really fun.
Cory: And this was the first time really that I've developed a game in Flash specifically for mobile, and all of the problems that arise with that in terms of screen size and making sure that all of the different orientations are usable. I think we've hit a point where most people are playing it without complaint now, which is nice. It certainly was a challenge to make sure that people could play it on whatever devices they were using but still have it made in this program that 100% had never thought: “People will be looking at this on a thing that's not a computer?” So, that was an interesting challenge.
And while I'm thinking about it, we definitely wanted to step away from a lot of the other games in terms of the visual identity. I think we're one of the few – other than Wordle itself, which through market penetration really cemented its look and feel – unique-looking daily word games out there. It actually has color and the logo, and it's very nice.
Chris: It definitely has some, like, old-school charm to it. And I think the design of it sort of brings that across.… And just the idea of the way that the game is played. It's very “classic game show.” I think Cory did a really good job.
Cory: And it looks like a Speak & Spell a little bit.
Chris: Right. Cory did a great job communicating those ideas through the design.
Talking About Other Wordle-Like Games
The discussion of the game’s visual design was the perfect time to ask two men their opinions of the other games inspired by Wordle.
WordFinder: What do you think about the other Wordle-like games that have come out? A lot of the games that have come out seem to inspire each other and grow a community.
Chris Carrion: It's a great time to be alive as a person who really likes this kind of game.… It almost reminds me of back in the day when more people would do the puzzles in the newspaper. Everybody played the same puzzle every day, and they’d discuss the results. I think it's fantastic for the culture of word games, that there are so many.
I love seeing what people do with that base formula. There have been so many. Cory plays a lot more than I do. I'm very firmly into Wordle. And I hop around here and there to some of the other ones, but Wordle and Pundle have really taken the majority of my attention.
Cory Anotado: I think my daily drivers right now are Wordle, Pundle and Heardle.… As someone who was fully entranced in the Flash game universe back when Flash games were gigantic, it is refreshing now to create new experiences for people in ways that are accessible to them.
And especially, this is new to have these little bite-sized, play-once games. There's not really any precedent from back in the day that I can think of where you had a game [that] you could only play the specific game once, and then it would tell you to come back in 24 hours.… It's really fun to see how people will just always play games. And it's interesting to see how they play games and what games really strike them.
Chris and Cory on the Pundle Community
Talking about game developers, the people behind and supporting the games, gave Chris Carrion and Cory Anotado an opportunity to mention their appreciation for the community that has grown around their game.
Chris Carrion: I'll quickly say that I love the community that has sprouted in support of this game. Whether you like or hate the puns, people like the game. They may hate the puzzles, but they will come back tomorrow and play again.… I think the community, especially on Twitter, is just incredible.
Cory Anotado: We appreciate that. The way that we've set the game up, it was done out of necessity. I didn't feel like plugging in a thing where people had to type in the answer. That's dumb. Once you go to solve the puzzle, you're solving it like the old Megatouch word frenzy games, where you just keep typing in letters. And if the letter’s not there, then game over. We modeled it after that.
We love that some of our community have called “just hitting the solve button immediately” their “hard mode.” You're basically writing Minesweeper with words, which we think is really neat. When people need more than the six letters to solve it, they call it “overtime.” We think that's really neat too. We love the community and then coming up with little phrases and things and it makes us feel like we made a thing that people really liked and that we're a part of their [lives].
Pushing Pundle Products and Merch
If you spent some time exploring the Pundle website and checked the links that appear after playing the game, you’ll have noticed that Pundle has a link to a TeePublic page where you can buy Pundle merchandise. Pun-themed products deserved more of an explanation.
WordFinder: We saw that you have merch on TeePublic. Can you tell us how you got into making your merchandise?
Cory Anotado: Yeah, I wanted a shirt. So whenever I want a shirt, I'll put it on TeePublic, because I'm sure someone else will want a shirt too. Funny thing is, I haven't ordered the shirt yet. Someone else did before me. There are exactly two Pundle shirts in the wild. None of them are in my or Christian’s house.
Chris Carrion: I can tell you I know who bought them, though. It's a friend of mine and his wife. And I have it on good authority that this man played Pundle while awaiting the birth of his first child.
Our conversation took an expected unexpected turn at that point, with everyone discussing how the pain both the husband and wife went through that day.
Chirs: “Pundle: The only word game that’s as painful as childbirth.”
Cory: Take that, Ocrtordle.
This of course encouraged everyone to begin talking about puns, which naturally led to everyone making them. After everyone let out a series of groans, Cory and Christian spoke more about the use of puns and people’s reactions to them.
Chris: I will say that it's interesting to see how the game has changed the way people think. A lot of people start out playing the game and don't really know how to wrap their heads around it. But sooner or later, if you play enough of these, you will begin to think in puns.
Cory hated puns when I started writing the puzzles for this game. Now, he comes up with ideas for puzzles all the time. And I like to think that daily exercise was wrapping [Cory’s] head around words and thinking of them in a different way. Pundle trains you to think in that language.
Cory: It's cheaper than a lobotomy, that's for sure.
Final Words From the Pun Masters
With our time coming to a close, we opened the floor to allow Cory and Chris to share any final thoughts they had.
WordFinder: Was there anything else you wanted to share to wrap things up? Any future plans or hopes for the game? Or thank everyone for the angry tweets?
Cory Anotado: Yeah. Your hate fuels us.
Chris Carrion: Yes. Please continue to hate this.
Cory: We will like and retweet all the hate that comes our way. And print it out. Put it on our wall. We love hate. Every project that I think we've done has been rooted in some form of spite. So this one's no exception. We just live off of spite.
Chris: Coming up next on Passive Aggressive Family Feud.
Cory: “One hundred people surveyed. ‘You're really going to wear that today?’”
Chris, tell him about the marathon.
Chris: Pundle is a very short form version of something we do every year called the 24-hour game show marathon. This is a charity event that we took a break from the past couple of years because of the pandemic. But for the past decade, we've been, every year, playing 24 different game shows, one an hour, for 24 hours straight. All the while, we raise money for some incredible charities. We've raised thousands of dollars for Child's Play, [a charitable organization] that provides toys and games and support for children in hospitals, among many other things. And it's something that we're looking forward to doing this year.
June 4 and 5 this year. It’ll be at gameshowmarathon.com. We livestream the whole thing. We have our friends and game show champions and fans from all over the country fly in and join us. It's really an incredible time.
Everything that we do is an expression of our love for game shows and for games and for puzzles. The creativity behind those things is really what drives us. That's something very, very important to us, and we are looking forward to raising some more money and having some more fun.
Meet One of the Creators Behind Canuckle
We want to thank Cory Anotado and Chris Carrion again for taking the time to speak with us. We loved hearing about how Pundle came to be, the reception it’s had and the fun they’ve had making it.
There’s something truly fascinating about hearing how any creative project comes to life. And it’s even more captivating when you can hear the story straight from the minds behind the creation. If you’d like to hear more stories like this, we suggest reading the interview we had with Mark Rogers. Mark and his brother Jeff Rogers also took inspiration from Wordle to make a game. Canuckle is their Canadian-themed puzzler.
Zac Pricener has been a content creator for the past eight years. He’s a bit of an all-around nerd, and he has a bad habit of working movie and TV show references into conversations whenever possible.