Is it a high-potential starting word in America’s favorite word game? Three good consonants, two frequent vowels…a good opening volley this morning?
Or, is it the SOUND that erupted painfully from my throat, scaring the dog, when I busted my Wordle streak? (AGAIN.)
If you are among the millions addicted to the word game that has gripped the nation, if you constantly update your strategy or sweat over your starting word, if you are on a text thread that shares scores every morning, then you know the real answer. It’s both.
What’s that? Not a Wordler? We fanatics don’t JUDGE, of course, but I may quietly speculate what life is like under that rock. I’ll even confess I started playing myself last year, after suffering the most acute case of fear-of-missing-out that ever struck. What on earth were all these rows of blocks on Facebook, where the devoted shared their daily scores? Why was everyone asking, “Did you get the word today?” I was pretty much the only person I knew who wasn’t playing. A good pal offered to COACH this beginner, and I dove in. And was immediately hooked.
If you’ve had your eyes and ears open at all in the past year or two (this morning’s Wordle is daily puzzle No. 736) in the western world, you likely know this game offers you six chances to guess a five-letter word by the process of elimination of letters. Sounds simple, right? You key in the letters for your GUESS and get instantaneous results. Green squares indicate correct letters in the right order, yellows are correct letters, out of order, and the remaining letters are eliminated. You play it on your phone, and if you sign in, it tallies your running results, totalling how many tries it takes you and how many days in a row you get it right (the streak).
What could possibly go wrong?
Hold my beer. Some of us find new ways to defeat ourselves at least once a week, if not more frequently. Take note here of just a few ways a Wordler can blow it. After 320 plays (hey! Is there a Wordle anniversary gift for one year?), I recommend that you don’t:
- Start playing when you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. Awake, maybe, but brain still fuzzy, you’ll overlook blatant clues and annoy yourself so thoroughly you’ll soon be even more AWAKE, even more unlikely to recapture SLEEP, and get a crappy score. A two-for-one nightmare.
- Play the same starting word every single ding-dang day. There are those who SWEAR by this strategy—and hey, I know one who outscores me most days—but I can’t stick with that. It left me totally BORED.
- Select your first guess based on the mood of the day. I woke up the other morning still glowing from a wonderful gathering of loved ones the previous day, so I started with HAPPY. The irony was unbearable; I busted the streak painfully, even with four of the five letters by the third guess. Why did you WASTE an extra consonant, with those two P’s, asked a kind fellow-sufferer, who probably heard my GROAN miles away at his house. I don’t know, because I was, well, you know, HAPPY, before I played this dadgum game? Some have luck starting with the weather (CLOUD); he, on the other hand, often starts with terms inspired by the daily news. On the historic day of our former president’s recent federal indictment, he started with CRIME and got the word in three tries. Poetic justice? You decide.
- Forget that many words contain a letter that appears more than once. I made this mistake, oh, I dunno, 25 or 30 times before I finally caught on, being quick that way. Still, hope glimmers faintly on the horizon, proving that even the most bullheaded players may finally catch on. Today’s word is RODEO, and I got it in four.
- Play without your glasses because you are too lazy to get up and get them. Need I point out how much M looks like N when you are squinting, and so forth?
Enough about ways we make it harder. What about ethics? (Gasp! Must we apply moral standards to Wordle? Examine your own conscience, is my advice.)
Of all the Wordlers I know, only two have openly confessed–one of them whispering, if you can do that in a text–to consulting an outside source to improve results. One reviews a website that archives previous words; he checks it before entering a guess. Does that make him a CHEAT, he asked me recently? Reading this text, I inhaled sharply. Not because I was scandalized, but because I felt stupid for not knowing that the words don’t repeat. Or that such websites exist.
Another daily Wordler confessed to roaming the wild, forsaken deserts of Google to get the word in six tries or less—checking the spelling, or asking the Almighty G if her guess is actually a word (the latter an unnecessary step, as the game rejects entries not found in the dictionary and doesn’t count them as one of your six tries).
My personal diversion from the most rigid standards of play involves asking for clues. One recent morning I had eliminated so many letters in four tries that I couldn’t even type out a word that actually WAS a word with the letters I had left. After about a quarter-million attempts and three cups of coffee, I would have happily busted my streak just to finish, but, no. There was nothing for it but to plead for assistance. I texted my pal: Give me a hint, I begged, PRIDE and SHAME abandoned, wondering how I could possibly get on with my day, which happened to contain some actual productive objectives and commitments beyond word puzzles. Felt the same more than once, have you? If you’re thinking of slinking to the dark side and joining me there, here’s a tip: Ask for the first letter, if you don’t have it already. It flips on a switch with illumination more powerful than the overhead light at the dentist’s office.
I read this week that the New York Times is introducing a new word game called “Connections.” Will it draw away the Wordle faithful, or just consume still more time in the average day for addicted puzzle players? “The editor of the game talks about how she makes it feel fun,” begins the announcement story. Oh, really? I decline to speculate on how much fun is actually involved in my addiction to Wordle.
Yet I stick with it. And I don’t want for much. My goals are simple: I want to improve my stats to show more puzzles solved in THREE tries than in four. That gap is big, and the mountain looks high. I may never get there, but if I do, I’ll be so HAPPY.