Cover Wordle is the newest lexical puzzle for crossword fanatics (Photo: Bannon Morrissy / Unsplash)

Crosswords, scrabble and... wordle? Learn all about the newest word game taking the Internet by storm

On the 12th of January, 2022, I received a rather succinct, yet striking message: “Wordle. Have you played?”

No, I had not.

The query was sent by Filipino photographer Neal Oshima, with whom I share a liking for lexical puzzles: crosswords, cryptic crosswords, unscramblers, and the like. Knowing this, the game immediately piqued my interest and begged the question, What in the world is Wordle?

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Tatler Asia
A Wordle game in progress
Above A Wordle game in progress

As it turns out, Wordle is the Internet's latest obsession, played by everyone from your well-read relative to The Tonight Show's Jimmy Fallon. A comically straightforward puzzle, the aim of the game is simple: guess the five-letter word of the day in six tries or less, the fewer the better. Yet, people cannot seem to get enough of it, fixated on cracking the code and sharing updates on social media.

“Wordle is the sourdough starter of Omicron,” tweeted one user.

 

First released to the digital public in October 2021, the game debuted with all but 90 players. By the 2nd of January, that number had skyrocketed to 300,000 players—and as of the 14th of January, Wordle now has two million regular players. The growth is phenomenal, especially considering it was never developed for commercial use: not an ad, nor a subscription fee or push notification in sight. In fact, software engineer Josh Wardle only created Wordle (yes, the play on Wardle was intentional) for his partner, Palak Shah.

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How do you play Wordle?

Worlde is just a click away, hosted on Wardle's own website. Once you open the page, you'll be greeted with the game's clear, uncomplicated instructions:

  1. Guess the Wordle in six tries.
  2. Each guess must be a valid five-letter word.
  3. After each guess, the colour of the tiles will change to show how close your guess was to the word.

As described, each tile in your guess will turn a different colour after every submission. If the tile is grey, the letter is not in the word at all; if it is yellow, the letter is part of the target word, but not in the correct spot; and finally, if it is green, the letter is part of the target word and in the correct spot. To help you with subsequent guesses, the keyboard at the bottom of the screen also changes colour accordingly.

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Tips and tricks

The key to solving the Wordle lies in selecting a good starter word. Although Wordles can repeat letters, your first guess should consist of five different letters so you can narrow down your pool efficiently. Additionally, consulting a frequency chart can assist in making skilful guesses that aim to hit the most commonly-used letters in the English language, though some might consider this a cheat.

Programmer and game designer Tyler Glaiel proposes that ‘roate’ and ‘raise’ are the mathematically optimal first guesses, based on extensive algorithms he designed exactly for this purpose. However, everyone seems to have their own favourites: notes, adieu, react, and so on. To be a true Wordle-bug, select your own signature starter.

It may also help to know that some users believe Wordle has not used plural or past tense words thus far. However, this has not been confirmed by the creator.

Worlde also includes some fun settings you can toggle. Activating hard mode, for example,  forces you to use any revealed hints in subsequent guesses (i.e. if a tile is green, that letter must be used in that spot in all guesses thereafter).

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Why is Wordle so popular?

There are many factors contributing to the success and popularity of Wordle beyond its clean, accessible, and easy-to-use web interface. Firstly, the game only releases one Wordle per day; once you've solved the daily puzzle, you have to wait till midnight for your next challenge. Wardle notes that this functionality was partially inspired by the New York Times daily Spelling Bee and crossword puzzles, both of which have a loyal following of daily users.

Secondly, the Wordle of the day is the same for every user, everywhere in the world. This naturally invites a sense of community and competition as everyone races to complete the Wordle in as few attempts as possible.

Third, Wardle added a function that “generates a spoiler-free emoji grid” of your wordle path for that day. Ever since, users have used the feature to share (often, boast) their results on social media, particularly on Twitter.

Finally, users can also view their current statistics to see the number of games played, their win percentage, current streak, maximum streak, and a somewhat taunting guess distribution chart.

Britsh psychologist Lee Chambers also observes that the game is so satisfying to complete because it stimulates both “language- and logic-processing areas of our brains”, encouraging a healthy release of dopamine once the five tiles flush a vindicating green.

Convinced? Great. Play Wordle here, and we'll see you on the Twitterverse.

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