How to Slay at Wordle

Have you heard of the game Wordle that's taking the internet by storm?

If you’re confused by the green-yellow-grey grid emojis flooding social media right now, you’re missing the latest word-guessing game on the interwebs: Wordle.

I’m not here to claim I’m an expert, but I’m head-over-heels in love with the game and have started to uncover a few strategies that help me crush the competition. Which is only myself, I admit — but victory tastes sweet no matter how it’s served. 

And that’s kind of the secret to this game, I think: it’s just you and a puzzle for about 5 minutes. There are no ads, no flashing lights, no buzzing in your hand. I’ve come to treasure the way it invites dedicated focus — I’m just thinking about one thing. There’s also the fact that you can’t binge it. You just get one chance per day, so it’s impossible to over-do it. 

“I think people kind of appreciate that there’s this thing online that’s just fun,” creator Josh Wardle told the New York Times. “It’s not trying to do anything shady with your data or your eyeballs. It’s just a game that’s fun.”

So here are a few strategies I’ve started to employ — it helped to think about this game along the lines of a Wheel of Fortune puzzle.

  • Cover ground in your first guess. Out of the gate, you want to surface some of the more common letters. In Wheel of Fortune puzzles, those are R, S, T, L, N, E. I like to start with DREAM, or STEAL, or RISEN. A word with more than one vowel helps.
  • Key in on vowels (A, E, I, O, U). When I’m stuck, I find ways to incorporate a vowel that I haven’t used in a guess yet, or assess whether there is room for another vowel in the spacing that is emerging.
  • Beware repeat letters. More than once, I’ve been stumped too long on a puzzle because I didn’t consider that the word could have two of the same letter. BANAL and GORGE were both recent answers, and I got hung up on both because I was looking for different letters for each spot. When I realized a letter could repeat, the solution snapped into place.
  • Go analog. If I’m getting down to my fifth or sixth guesses, I’ll move the puzzle to a piece of scrap paper because the previous guesses above the empty boxes are distracting. 

I love words and playing with language, so I’m grateful for this simple game. But there might be a deeper benefit to playing. When I can’t see a way through, I can feel my impatience and frustration start to rise. Then I take a breath and double down, and usually an answer emerges. Besides the fact that it feels good to start the day with a W, I think it’s cultivating more patience in me. 

And let’s not forget that language is part of what makes us human: “Word-work is sublime,” said Toni Morrison, “because it is generative; it makes meaning that secures our difference, our human difference — the way in which we are like no other life. We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”

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