January 24 Day 687: We Don’t Talk About Wordle

As this blog is intended as commentary on our world during the COVID pandemic, I feel I cannot ignore important trends and fads that sweep through the population. First there was Tiger King. Now there is Wordle.

I love Wordle. I have played it every morning for the last three weeks. It reminds me of my youth when I would play Mastermind with friends and family. A quick deductive game. Six or fewer guesses and you are done for the day. For those who have yet to find it, here are the official instructions from their website:

It’s really fun especially for mathematicians who like puzzles. My social media threads are filled with people posting their results. Wordle makes it easy and you share the pattern of your guesses as you can see below.

Wordle 219 5/6


Knowing how other people did before I try the puzzle affects my play. For example in today’s game, I had several friends uncover the word in 3 guesses. After my fourth incorrect guess with only two known letters, I started to get anxious, sapping away the joy and fun.

If everyone is posting a high number of guesses, you can be sure its because there is a low frequency letter or repeated letter(s) or both! If everyone seems to be getting it quickly and you don’t, well…how does it make you feel? Me too.

It’s akin to a take home exam when an innocuous comment like “#5 was easy” negatively impacts someone for whom #5 is decidedly not easy.

I like to hear about other people’s strategies, whether its the disjoint word technique or an analysis of the best starting word. Personally, I start with whatever word is my inspiration of the moment, often a math or math-adjacent term because that’s just who I am. I usually try to include all the vowels (yes, even Y) in the first two words. And then I go where the clues take me.

And I enjoy seeing the patterns (after I have played my own game). I wonder what path my friend followed to end up at the same conclusion. I wonder…. we could extend our Wordle play with Friends by exchanging patterns and guessing the sequence of words the other person used. It might require more colors. Yellow would be modified to “in this word but not this position”, Orange could be “right position but wrong word in the sequence” and blue could be “occurs in the puzzle but not this position and not this word in the sequence.”

Anybody game to try?

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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