03 February 2022

A successful strategy for playing Wordle


There are lots of ways to start solving a Wordle puzzle.  I've seen several suggestions to start with ADIEU in order to identify the vowels.  That seems inefficient to me since only six entries are allowed, and all of them will have at least one vowel.  And for me it's easier to suss out a word from component consonants rather than vowels (as illustrated above).

I started playing Wordle in early January, and after missing a word I decided to come up with a strategy that would be more effective than random guessing.  The first four entries allow one to test 20 different letters, so I looked for words that would use the 20 most likely letters, winding up with BRINK, CADGY, WHELM, and POUTS [or SPOUT].  Those four words include all the letters except F and the uncommon J, Q, V, X, and Z. 

What order one enters those words in will make a difference, but there's no way to know a priori which one should go first.  The only "2" I've ever achieved occurred when by chance I started with BRINK and the answer was BRISK.  


In the example above, the first two entries revealed that the word was _ OI _ _, with S and T in two of those blanks.  That narrowed the options to TOILS, FOIST, HOIST, JOIST, and MOIST.  One could simply guess and try to score a rare "3", but entering WHELM eliminated HOIST and identified MOIST.  

This is not necessarily the best strategy, but it does work efficiently (see below).  I'm sure words will come along that will elude solving this way, but it's the best I can offer at this time.  I'll open up the comment thread to let others make suggestions for improvements and to share their own strategies and test words.


Addendum:  A tip of the blogging cap to reader John for recommending The Math of Winning Wordle.

Addendum: The video Solving Wordle Using Information Theory is a highly relevant (and 30 minutes long).

Addendum:  Those who enjoy Wordle might enjoy Squabble.

Addendum:  And there's also Quordle (four words to solve simultaneously).  So I tested the same strategy (entering SPOUT, WHELM, CADGY, BRINK), and it worked perfectly:


- but tbh, it isn't much fun.

Addendum:  And now Phrasle (basically Wheel of Fortune).

AddendumThis video shows a man using the technique I describe above to solve 10 Wordle puzzles in 69 seconds.  His four starting words are BRICK, PODGY, SHUNT, AND FLAME.  So he has an "F" in his four starters, while I have a "W."  Otherwise we are equivalent.  And Unscramblerer has come up with BRAKE, CLOTS, DYING, and CLUMP - which use the same 20 letters as my grouping, but in words that are more familiar.

See also Wordle Unlimited and this collection of 30 spinoffs from Wordle.

Addendum:  Now there's a Hurdle (instructions at the link).  And a WordleBot at the NYT that will analyze your Wordle entries and explain how a computer would have done better than you did.

And finally (??) Waffle.

Addendum.  Octordle offers 8 simultaneous games.  And not a word puzzle, Yeardle invites you to guess the years of historic events.

27 comments:

  1. I have also developed a strategy that works for me. My initial three words are STINK, PROUD, and GLEAM. This gives me info about vowels and the most common consonants and leaves me three more guesses to come to the solution. I am practiced with these words now and know the letters that remain unused (another clue). I also have been playing a free and limitless version of Wordle here: https://octokatherine.github.io/word-master/ where my longest streak is 231. Yay for quick fun word games! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I use Louis, Nymph, Trade, but it isn’t always accurate

      Delete
  2. I find reading other people's strategies fascinating. In gaming parlance, there is a term - "min/maxing" - to describe strategies like yours. I personally like to play with a random starting word of whatever pops into my head in the morning first and go from there. Admittedly, I will reject a "random" word for repeated letters, or uncommon letters like J or X. But other than that, I like a less "set" beginning. Just personal preference, of course. Very fun game. Glad the fellow made some money off of it.

    Oh, and my results from today:

    Wordle 229 5/6

    ⬜⬜⬜⬜🟨
    🟩🟩🟩🟩⬜
    🟩🟩🟩🟩⬜
    🟩🟩🟩🟩⬜
    🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That grid is a case in point. You were lucky to get four correctly placed letters with your second word, but you would have done better to eliminate as many possible letters for the last one, and you would most likely have saved a guess.

      Delete
  3. Don't have any data to back it up, but I would think SPOUT would be slightly better than POUTS as I think they tend to avoid words ending in S because most of those would be plural four-letter words.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't realize plurals of four-letter words are excluded. You're quite correct.

      Delete
    2. Also a work is more likely to have an S in the starting position, than it is to have a P.

      Delete
  4. I'm one of those "ADIEU" players and it really hasn't failed me yet. I got MOIST in 2 just on luck and I haven't had a reason to change my strategy yet (guess that's how my brain works.) https://i.imgur.com/oUfzxFo.png

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  5. I settled on THING, MOLDY, WRECK, and SQUAB.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a good group. Yours and mine both lack FJVXZ. Yours has Q instead of my P. Both groups should perform about equally.

      Delete
  6. It's very interesting, I've been playing for the past month too and I would NEVER consider using stock words. Apart from having five different letters from among the 15 most common, my first word is different every day, and I don't plan it ahead of time. A huge part of the enjoyment and challenge is to use the information from the first word to craft the second, finding a word with unused letters in a way that gives you maximal information towards the solution. There's no wrong way to enjoy a word game, but stock word use is completely contrary to my temperament.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Chris - someone did get the data to back it up.
    https://artofproblemsolving.com/news/articles/the-math-of-winning-wordle
    "Tip alert!: Wordle words rarely end in S – it is the 15th most popular last letter. Wordle words end in S less than 2% of the time, compared to 31% of the full set of five-letter words. This is the result of the Wordle list being made from hand-picking words — and the contrast is surprising."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, John. I didn't realize it was a curated list that excludes some words. I've boosted you link up to the body of the post.

      Delete
  8. Is it still a game when you're applying a (relatively boring) algorithm?

    ReplyDelete
  9. ETAONRISHDLF for letter frequency. It's easy to remember: just say ee-TAY-on-RISH-d'lf even only once and you have it forever. I read it in /Alvin's Secret Code/ in fifth grade in 1968 and it's still good.

    There's also ETAOIN SHRDLU (say et-uh-oin-SHR'D-loo), that you can remember because of the left-hand columns on the linotype keyboard. It's close to the same thing.

    And Phrasle, close to Wordle:
    https://phrasle.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I read that book too! I've used some of the ciphers mentioned in the book several times. I even created a rod cipher the other day to show a student.

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    2. AUDIO, STERN... that tends to reveal a lot of options. If I'm still stuck, I go with CH-MP and any revealed vowels since it works with all of them, except E. MOLDY is another good option.

      Delete
  10. I shared the link but I resist making it a mathematical exercise. I find some charm in picking a word out of the ether and see where it takes me :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. There is another one out called nerdle game, except with numbers. Simple arithmetic but good for getting the mind back on numbers and simple calculation.

    ReplyDelete
  12. When I was a kid many years ago I was into codebreaking for a little while and like the commentor above I used the slightly different ETANORISH as the most common English letters. So my start word is usually HEART. I leave out the S because without plurals it’s less common than it might normally be, and I’d like to use the N but with only five letters that’s harder to squeeze in. It’s worked pretty well so far as I’m pretty evenly balanced with threes and fours, with a couple of somewhat lucky twos and a few fives and sixes.

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  13. CRANE per https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v68zYyaEmEA Solving Wordle using information theory

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  14. The 20 best starters:

    https://www.inverse.com/gaming/wordle-starting-words-best-using-math The 20 best Wordle starting words, according to science - Destroy Wordle with the power of mathematics.

    ReplyDelete
  15. When you're bored with Wordle, try https://www.quordle.com -- four wordle games at once, nine guesses. Shifts the strategy a bit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My four-entry strategy still worked on Quordle:

      Daily Quordle #23
      6️⃣5️⃣
      8️⃣7️⃣
      quordle.com
      ⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜ 🟨⬜🟩⬜⬜
      🟩🟩⬜⬜⬜ ⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜
      ⬜⬜🟨⬜⬜ ⬜⬜🟨🟨⬜
      ⬜🟨⬜⬜⬜ 🟩⬜⬜⬜⬜
      ⬜⬜⬜⬜🟩 🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩
      🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛

      ⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜ ⬜🟨⬜🟨⬜
      ⬜⬜🟨⬜⬜ ⬜🟩⬜⬜⬜
      ⬜⬜⬜🟨⬜ ⬜⬜🟨⬜⬜
      ⬜🟨⬜⬜⬜ ⬜⬜🟨⬜⬜
      ⬜🟩⬜⬜⬜ ⬜⬜⬜⬜🟩
      ⬜⬜🟩⬜⬜ ⬜🟩⬜⬜🟩
      ⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜ 🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩
      🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛

      Delete
  16. Yeah, I found that your strategy makes quick work of quordle, but makes it too easy -- usually at least one word is obvious after gathering that much information, and the rest usually follow very easily. It's much harder (and more interesting) if I require myself to respond to and build on each new piece of information, starting with my first guess (or for a slightly easier game, starting with my second guess).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It also works extremely well on Squabble -

      https://squabble.me/game/fc896b299f68381ef986b3dff891e0ec2fd4db671055150b6178d514c8a58c37

      - because that game rewards speed. I won on both the "blitz" mode and the Squabble Royale (vs. 39 opponents).

      But as you suggest, using my formula isn't much fun...

      Delete

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