The world needed a diversion. The world needed something to unite us all. Who would have thought, a simple word game, born out of the purity of love, would be the answer! My WORDLE!
Today, after my 10 year old and I solved it, we sent the superbly well designed result page to my wife who was upstairs. We then forwarded it to my mom who is across the oceans in India. We then discussed it as a family on a video call. It brought us all together.
To be fair, the game isn’t unique. As a 10 year old, many decades ago, I remember being addicted to the game Mastermind. Travelling on British Airways, they used to hand these out to kids. What a great experience that was! Today my kids get backpacks with coloring books. I wish they would go back to board games. The concept was very similar. The guesser had to find the right 4 colors and the right sequence. The clue giver uses the black and white pins – black for right color in right place and white for right color in the wrong place. My brother and I spent hours playing it.
Everyone has their own logic to solve the daily WORDLE puzzle. This is part of the charm. Invariably we end up discussing the sequence of words that led us to the solution and it all begins with the first word. Endless debates on the best word to start with have occurred and maybe even been written about. For the first few days I was using the word FAINT and did pretty well. Then I switched to AROSE as I saw R and S being used more. My mom was using ADIEU. Others used AUDIO. My second word was most often LUCID. (I don’t play Hard Mode… I actually think it makes it worse.)
While I’ve loved word games – Scrabble, Boggle, Crosswords etc… I am also a Data Scientist. An Engineer. A Math lover. So this morning I decided to test my logic. My biggest conclusion was that all these words and more are equally good words to start with, don’t let the analysis paralyze you. YOUR first word is YOUR best word. But if you are interested my thought process read on.
- I needed to get my hands on the 2315 words that the game uses. I found it on Github. (https://gist.github.com/cfreshman/a03ef2cba789d8cf00c08f767e0fad7b)
- I also found the list of all the Allowed words – 12947 of them. https://gist.github.com/cfreshman/cdcdf777450c5b5301e439061d29694c
WORDLE word – one of the 2315 words that are answers in the puzzle.
ALLOWED word – one of the 12947 words that can be guessed
Frequency of Occurrence in all letters
Easy to do in Excel, I separated the words into individual letters using Text to Columns.
I then did a =COUNTIF function and counted the frequency of each letter. No surprise E is the most common occurrence, appearing 1233 times out of a total of 11575 (2315*5). More than 10%. A was next, followed by R, O and T.
Immediately the first starting word became obvious. ORATE.
Number of words each letter appears in
The next interesting question to ask also became obvious. How many words do each of the letters appear in? Continuing on the analysis, using the =FIND function and the =SUM function, it was easy to see that the letter A appears in 908 of the 215 words. The letter b in 267 of the words.
The full list is below. The letter E occurs in 1055 words – 46% of all words. Again looking at the list below, ORATE is a great word to start with. If you want to get as many letters opened up in 3 tries, then ORATE, INCUS, LYMPH are great 3 words to open with. (Assuming your aim is to guarantee a solve, and not necessarily in the minimum words and you are not playing Hard Mode).
First Word whose letters appear in the most words – highest chance of getting atleast 1 Yellow on the first try.
Take the word ORATE. The A appears in the word ABACK. The A and E appears in the next WORDLE word ABASE. Using the =FIND function and the =UNIQUE function, and then the =SUM function it was easy to see that the letters of ORATE appear in 2119 of the 2315 WORDLE words.
Next, I needed to check all the 12947 words. Old school VB macros to the rescue. A simple for loop, cycling through the words, and letting Excel do the calculations.
The Top 40 words whose letters occur in the most words
The word AUREI (a gold coin of ancient Rome, worth 25 silver denarii) is the top word. the letters – 4 vowels and the letter R appear in 2200 – 95% of all words. The letters of the word ADIEU appears in 2152 words. The letters of ARISE, RAISE is the WORDLE word with the highest percentage. 2146 words have one of those letters. ALONE, AROSE, AUDIO are all great words.
More Consonants – less vowels in first word
Another good approach is to identify as many consonants as possible, early. ALERT – > 91%. See all words whose letters occur in more than 90% of WORDLE words. LEANT, YEAST, STARE are all good words.
If you go with ALERT, a good second word could be NOISY – 81% of words.
Aiming for maximum tiles turned Yellow or Green
Using the =UNIQUE function, I was able to get the unique letters in each word. Then we can count how many of the letters from each of the Allowed word appears in each of the WORDLE word. I took an average of all words that they appear in. Here are the Top 40 words.
ARETS is the leader here but it does fall lower on the Number of words the letters appear in. It is also not a WORDLE word. STARE scores high, so does ALERT, IRATE and AROSE. ORATE scores high here too, but strangely it is not a WORDLE word.
So what’s the best option
ALERT IRATE AROSE STARE ARISE LEARN SANER CATER LEAST TEARY AISLE – all WORDLE words
AUREI, ARETS, ADIEU, ORATE – great Allowed Words but won’t get you a hit on TRY ONE.
Interesting question to ponder on… Bonus points
What is a 5 letter word that is an ANAGRAM for the most 5 letter words? Example – LATER, ALERT, ALTER – same 5 letters and all 3 are acceptable WORDLE answer. I found another word that has 4 options.
First word – AROSE
Second word – UNLIT
Don’t be afraid to PIVOT
This week we ran into WINCE. If you had INCE figured out, W, M, S, P are all possible as the first letter. Pivot and instead of guessing one of those, form WIMPS as an example. It will give you the consonant you were looking for.
Like I said in the beginning, it is good to understand the math, the probability, the logic, but nothing is more fun than racking your head for that elusive word. Have fun with WORDLE!