Winning Wordle: Tines, Moral, Ducky

Wordle results had been showing up in my Facebook feed for a while, though the craze seems to have tapered off. I had some free time, so I started to play it, just to see what it was, and pretty soon found it was easy to systematically win, at least most of the time.

The key is letter frequency. In English, the most-used letters in dictionary-defined words are E, S, I, A, R, N, M, T, O, D. The order is a little different in texts, but Wordle asks you to guess common five-letter words, so dictionary entries seem to be the appropriate universe.

Wordle picks a different word each day, and players get six chances it figure it out. You type a five-letter word, and the game tells you whether any of the letters appear in that day’s answer by highlighting them in yellow or green, the latter if you also guessed the right position. You then have five more chances to find the answer, using information gleaned from your previous answer(s). By guessing words with the most frequently used letters and trying all of the major vowels early on, it’s pretty easy to narrow down the possibilities.

I use the same three words as my first three guesses almost all of the time: Tines, Moral, and Ducky. They provide 13 of the 15 most-used letters in the first three answers and includes the five main vowels. The first word, Tines, also reveals if the word ends on an S, which could be good to know because plurals are reportedly possible, though they are rare.

Once I’ve typed my three words, I know whether any of the most popular letters are in the answer and also which standalone vowels. I also have information about which positions in the word those letters occupy and/or which they do not.

After my third word, I know the word contained A, C, M, and O and that O was in the second condition. The remaining letter might have been B or P and I would have been able to guess Combo and Campo before Comma, but from what I’ve read about Wordle, it sticks to commonly used words, not slang or those borrowed from other languages,

There’s also a hard mode (find it under the gear a the top right) that requires you to use the information you’ve discovered on subsequent turns. If you know where a letter goes, you have to use it in that position for all your later guesses, and if you know a letter appears in the answer, you have to use it somewhere in the answer. You aren’t prevented from using letters you know won’t appear, which you might want to do to get a dictionary word.

For that mode, you need to use as many letters as you can from MORAL and DUCKY in your second and third answers. Unusually, none of the letters in TINES was in the answer, so when MORAL revealed that O was the second letter and that M and A were elsewhere in the puzzle, you might have guessed FOAMY, mainly to test the Y. That answer would have revealed that M is the 4th letter and that A is either the first or last, and looking at the remaining letters available, COMMA is the only obvious possibility.

So, there you have it. TINES, MORAL, and just DUCKY.

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