Wordle is a game that is a cross between Mastermind and Scrabble. I heard about it because it is really trendy. But I tried it out because Mastermind is one of the games I introduced to my nieces in August. It seemed hard for them, so I always played on the side of the person guessing, and showed them how to reason through any game (like thinking up a series of unit tests, without saying so, haha!) in order to win reliably.
One early game that frustrated a niece was when she initially laid down red, green, blue, and white. None were the correct color, let alone the correct color in the correct position, and she interpreted that as a complete failure. I told her that mistakes teach you a lot, and showed that in this case, it was a huge help. Because there are only 6 colors in total, the only possible colors in the solution are black and yellow. In order to figure out how many of each, I suggested the next round be all of one color. So our next guess was all black, which was the solution – we got it in 2 guesses!
So my strategy for Wordle is basically just like that story – choose words with distinct letters so you know which are in and which aren’t. Because Wheel of Fortune teaches that the most common consonants and vowel are R S T L N E, followed by C D M A, the words I now start off with are RENTS PLAID COUGH. That takes up 3 turns but leaves 3 remaining guesses with a lot of intel on what letters are in and out. So far, I’ve gotten all the puzzles solved, and in 4 or 5 turns.
A few times, I have played it in the style of hard mode, where you must incorporate the knowledge of previous turns in your next guess. That once actually led to only needing 3 turns because the first 2 words gave enough info, but it is otherwise trickier. I don’t want to spend all that much time right now, so I don’t feel compelled to actually turn on hard mode in the settings, and instead I’m sticking with RENTS PLAID COUGH. I don’t know what expert puzzlers and linguists have to say, nor am I curious to find out.
Now my nieces like Mastermind and are better at it than me – it’s a 6-color game, but they’ve played an 8-color version online and gotten good at it. They showed me ways of eliminating dead ends that I didn’t realize were possible. I might hold off on introducing Wordle until they feel more comfortable with crosswords/Scrabble and have enough patience to think through a harder, more open-ended game without giving up so easily, and/or have a large enough vocab to solve it quickly so that they don’t spend so much screen time.