Online puzzle game gone viral
February 7, 2023
The concept of this game is simple: try to solve a five letter word puzzle in six guesses or less.
Wordle is an online game which came into existence less than two years ago. Yet it has swept the internet with millions playing it worldwide each day.
The inventor, Josh Wardle, wrote a computer program for his own amusement based on the game Mastermind. At first just he and his partner played the game. After a time, he shared the game with friends by posting it on the internet. Before long it was discovered and through word of mouth went viral.
The Infallible Wikipedia tells us what happened next:
“The game gained popularity in December 2021 after Wardle added the ability for players to copy their daily results as emoji squares, which were widely shared on Twitter. Many clones and variations of the game were also created, as were versions in languages besides English. The game was purchased by The New York Times Company in January 2022 for an undisclosed seven-figure sum, with plans to keep it free for all players; it was moved to the company’s website in February 2022.”
It was a year ago, on February 10, 2022, with the move to the NY Times, its popularity soared and the number of players exploded. Also, from the Infallible Wikipedia:
“According to the Times quarterly earnings report ending on March 31, 2022, the acquisition of Wordle brought ‘tens of millions’ of new players to the Times puzzle site and app, many of whom continued to play the other puzzles offered by the Times.”
What’s been the most fun about Wordle is that a number of my Facebook friends also discovered it and started posting their daily results. Which I do also. My BFF Daphne and I exchange text messages every morning now to cheer each other on and, occasionally, offer a nudge to the other person if one of us is struggling.
Take yesterday, for example. Over the weekend I was ambushed and caught by a cold (not Covid – I tested). Consequently, I wasn’t feeling very well on Monday morning. But that did not matter. Had to do the daily Wordle. Now, since it is Tuesday I can post the results of my journey.
I always start my word with one of two ‘starters’: DRAIN or STOLE. Why, you might ask? It’s because between these two words they capture the 10 most common letters used in five letter words.
So I start with STOLE and learn that I have one letter, a T and it’s in the wrong spot. Since that’s not enough information to make a reasonable guess I put in DRAIN and get two more letters: I and N. Neither in the correct place.
So here’s how my grid looked:
The next thing I do is make a little chart of all the possible combinations of the three letters I know. On paper. Very old school.
I finally settle on trying the word INPUT. It gets the I, the N, and the T in different spots plus adds in the U and another popular consonant, P.
All that does is confirm neither are in the word AND I still do not have any letters in the right spot.
Think, Barb, think!
So I think THINK is a good word to try and now my grid looks like this:
Okay! Now I’m getting someplace.
And then I whiff it. Which I later blame on the fact that I was running a slight fever and am sick. Apparently I wasn’t thinking because the next work I try is NIFTY.
Yes, I totally ignored the poor H but now I know where the N, the I, and the T belong. And spend the next half an hour searching for words which work in that configuration…but without the H. I try all the remaining letters.
There is not a single word which works. Zero. Zilch. I am perplexed. What could the word possibly be?
So I text my friend Daphne and express my frustration and she texts me back at 8:04 a.m.:
“You have all the pieces. 5 and counting.”
My fever addled brain MISSES that clue also so I go take a shower, eat breakfast, dry my hair and fret over what the darn word could possibly be!
Finally, as I’m writing this and once again texting with Daphne she sends another text as a reply to my request for a nudge at 10:32 a.m.:
“…I gave you a clue on last reply.”
To which I reply, now focused on numbers, “Well it can’t be ninth… the H is gone. So is the Y.”
And then I look at my grid one more time, whack my head, and see where I messed up. My reply to her:
“OMG! My brain is not working right. The H is not gone… it belongs in the word. Lol. I blame it on the low grade fever I’m running.”
I pull out a win at word six and am happy to escape with my 62 day in a row solving Wordle streak.
Of course, getting it on an early word is the best. A while back I became curious as to what the odds of guessing it correctly on the first word might be. It’s 1 in 2315. Or .0004 percent. On the second word its 6.5 percent (rounded). You are most likely to get it at word three or word four.
Now, I will finish this article by saying there are sites out there which will POST the word each day, allowing those who use such sites to ‘guess’ it on their first or second try. There are anagram solvers. There are all sorts of ways you can enhance your statistics. As far as I’m concerned, everyone gets to play the game however they want.
For me, however, I like the personal challenge and also the social aspects of it. I love seeing how many tries it takes my friends on Facebook. And on those days when I get it in two (I never use any online cheats!) I do a happy dance, enjoying the sweet victory and savoring the moment.