Since the Sudoku boom hit the UK 15 years ago, there hasn’t been a craze like the new online puzzle Wordle.
At the start of November, the deceptively simple game had just 90 players: they are now two million, with famous fans like Pointless co-host and bestselling author Richard Osman sharing their daily progress on Facebook and Twitter.
If you haven’t tried Wordle, beware. It’s frustrating and very addicting.
The game was created by British software engineer Josh Wardle, in order to entertain his partner, Palak Shah, during the lockdown.
Holed up in their New York apartment, they turned to crosswords to pass the time and, realizing how much she loved them, Wardle devised a pun just for the two of them.
When he shared it with his family on WhatsApp, they became so obsessed that he made it more widely available – but despite its astonishing popularity (and the fortune he could earn as a result), he insists on it. makes the website it is played on will remain free.
Wordle doesn’t have flashing banners or pop-ups requiring extras for “premium” features – just the game itself.
It gives it an air of mystery which, according to Wardle, has “piqued the interest of people.”
But while it has echoes of the old-fashioned Hangman game, the Mastermind board game, and the Lingo TV show, it’s pleasantly interactive.
Each day you are asked to guess a five letter word. You type your first attempt – any word in a grid that has six rows of five spaces – and Wordle tells you if any of the letters are in the secret word.
A correct letter in the correct place is highlighted in green; a correct letter in the wrong place in yellow. Letters that are not in the secret word at all are marked in gray.
Using these clues, you have five more attempts before the website reveals the word.
On my first attempt, I was only halfway down the grid before I was puzzled. I knew that I had correctly identified ‘A’ as the second letter of the mystery word, and that there was an ‘R’ somewhere.
But, by that time, I had ruled out 11 other letters of the alphabet and the 13 others – including unlikely suitors like Q, X, and Z – I just couldn’t think of another five-letter word. with which to guess.
Before starting over, I sought expert advice. David Bodycombe, a puzzle compiler for the Mail, regularly plays Wordle and has this advice: “Think Retsina Greek wine. This word gives you some of the most frequently used letters, ”he says.
The game was created by British software engineer Josh Wardle, in order to entertain his partner, Palak Shah, during the lockdown
“For the first guess, I’m using OPERA because it uses a lot of vowels. It’s easier to focus on the word once I know which vowels I’m working with.
Although there are some 12,000 five-letter words in the English dictionary, Wardle judged many to be too obscure and narrowed the list down to around 2,500.
While there have been complaints that words like “REBUS” and “TAPIR” aren’t familiar enough, Bodycombe says it’s always safer to go with the more obvious options when guessing a word.
“Given the choice between RADIO and the mathematical term RADIX, I would always choose the former,” he says.
Eager to have another chance, I re-entered the website, only to reload my previous low effort, rather than allowing myself to start from scratch. And that’s where another part of Wordle’s appeal lies.
Only one new puzzle is made available daily, reinforcing a sense of scarcity that leaves people wanting more. And you only have one chance to complete the challenge of the day.
Three ways to be a winner …
1. For your first guesses, focus on the most frequently used letters in the English language and also their most common placement in words. By studying the computer coding used to create the website, Slate magazine managed to find a list of the 2,315 possible solutions contained in Wordle’s dictionary and found that the most common first letter is S, followed by A and O. ; third letters A and R; the fourth E; and the fifth is S.
2. If your first guess produces one or more satisfying green squares, indicating that you have the right letter in the right place, it is tempting to reenter those letters on subsequent guesses. But that doesn’t give you any new information, so some say it’s best to use this location in the word to try a different letter.
3. Remember, Wordle only tells you if a letter is contained in the secret word, not how many times it appears. So be prepared for the answer to contain duplicate letters in words like GUESS.
One way around this is to try using another device – in my case my phone rather than my laptop, so I managed to start over with another opening word popular with Wordle users – YESJA (which is rich in vowels, although ‘J’ is an infrequent consonant). It took me one step further and by the time I reached the fourth guess I had established that the secret word was -A – O -, with an R somewhere.
The fifth of my guesses was BARON but that didn’t give me any new letters, only telling me that the R was in the wrong place and, again, I was baffled.
With the remaining letters available, I could only think of VAPOR, but surely Wordle’s dictionary wouldn’t use American spellings?
In desperation, I entered the word anyway. It was wrong but the correct answer was another American spelling – FAVOR.
At that point, I wanted to say a very British four-letter word – and I wasn’t the only one.
The British Wordlers were in arms yesterday, with some demanding an investigation from a flight attendant, others saying Americanism was a diplomatic incident.
In a rare moment of international unity, the Times noted, Australians had joined in the horror of the missing vowel.
Still, I can’t wait to try again – and maybe even try another popular feature of the game: the ability to share your progress with friends and rivals without revealing the missing word.
Like Wordlers everywhere, I’m addicted and, who knows, tomorrow I might be more LUCKY.