Few Wordle Players Use Consistent Starting Words, but When They Do, It’s ADIEU

The internet is full of advice about the best first guess to use for Wordle, the New York Times game in which players have to figure out the five-letter word of the day in six tries.

Even Bill Gates is willing to tell you his strategy.

We would never tell you how to play — by all means, you do you — but a look at The Times’s user data from June 15 to Aug. 22 revealed that if you don’t have a favorite starting word, you’re in good company. Most of the other players don’t either.

Among the tens of millions of people who played the game during that time, only 28 percent of players with more than 10 games under their belts used the same starting word consistently. (“Consistent” was defined as using the same word 90 percent of the time.)

The favorite starting word among players during that time was ADIEU, the French word for “farewell.” It was used by an average of 5 percent of users each day, which still included millions of people. And even after a June 22 CNET article discouraged using ADIEU — because its abundance of vowels may interfere with the chance of getting some good consonants — it was still one of the top five guesses.

Finding a good balance of non-repeating vowels and commonly used consonants, such as R, S, T or N, is also said to give the player an advantage. And yet, there are nuances to that strategy. In a request from The Times for the experiences of players, Kat Whyte of Central Point, Ore., said that she starts with ADIEU.

“It contains all the vowels except O and possibly Y,” she said, adding, “D is fairly common.”

On the other hand, fellow Wordle player Michael Lounsberry of Seattle said, “Finding consonants is where it’s at! Finding vowels is a bad strategy.”

The second attempt, the prevailing wisdom goes, should use completely different letters to increase the likelihood of solving the daily puzzle in the fewest guesses.

Chris Rand of State College, Pa., said that he opens with the word CRANE, but that’s not as important to him as the next word. “For me, Wordle is largely about how much information is collected on the second guess,” he said. “Typically, CRANE sets me up to collect a lot of info and increases my rate of scoring threes.” (Mr. Rand was talking about solving the puzzle in three guesses.)

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Mike Sinon of Indianapolis uses CRANE, but for reasons that are more sentimental than strategic. “It has three very common consonants that easily pair with other letter combinations,” Mr. Sinon said. “And it reminds me of my mother, who would always run outside with me to watch the sand hill cranes.”

If you’re really committed to a starting word, you may eventually get lucky.

But that’s human behavior. Maybe you would rather compare your starting word to Wordlebot, the game’s analytical companion.

Credit…Eden Weingart/The New York Times

WordleBot is the brainchild of Josh Katz, Matthew Conlen and a small team at The Upshot, The Times’s data visualization group. The bot was in development before The New York Times purchased the game, but it was offered to the public on Apr. 7. In its first incarnation, WordleBot knew the answers to the roughly 2,300 possible solutions and chose the word that allowed it to solve the game in as few guesses as possible, assuming any of the remaining solutions were equally likely.

Mr. Katz and Mr. Conlen, two graphics editors, announced on Aug. 17 that WordleBot’s algorithm had been updated so that it no longer knew the 2,300-word solution list.

Instead, the bot “assigned roughly 4,500 relatively common English words a probability of being a Wordle solution, based on what it has observed about the words that have been solutions so far.” Mr. Katz said.

“What’s important to remember is that the bot’s first choice is based on its own algorithm, not on users’ guesses,” he added in an interview.

The update also changed its favorite starting word from CRANE to SLATE.

This yielded a few online suggestions for players to drop CRANE and try the word SLATE instead. But there’s not necessarily anything wrong with the former top word, Mr. Katz said.

“I think either makes for a great starting word,” he added. “The difference between best and second-best is tiny.”

My go-to word is RAISE because it has a nice balance between the vowels and the common consonants S and R. The crosswords editor, Will Shortz, uses AROSE. His average number of guesses is slightly better than mine — a little under four vs. my solid four — so maybe I’ll try his word for a while.

C.J. Robinson contributed data analysis to this report.

Wordle is now available in the New York Times Crossword app for iOS and Android with a free New York Times account.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/01/crosswords/wordle-starting-words-adieu.html