Today’s Wordle is one of the toughest we’ve had so far in 2023. It’s the kind of game that will make dedicated Wordlers tear their hair out in frustration. This will lead to a lot of swearing. It will spoil many breakfasts.
And of course, it will end many long-lasting streaks. In fact, it almost cost me mine. But as harsh as this Wordle undoubtedly is, my pain was also self-inflicted, because I made a couple of key mistakes that I should have long ago tossed into the dustbin of history.
To explain what they were, I will have to include SPOILERS FOR TODAY’S WORDLE, GAME #878, ON TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2023. So don’t continue reading if you haven’t completed it yet. Just keep in mind that you might want some tips from Wordle before you do it.
Before I address my mistakes, let’s talk about today’s Wordle and exactly how difficult it was.
The answer to game #878, assuming you’ve already played it **FINAL SPOILER ALERT**, is SASSY, and it doesn’t take a genius to see what the problem is. Or rather, what are the three problems, that is, the triple S.
I have a pretty good idea of how difficult each Wordle is thanks to WordleBot, the NYT’s subscription-only AI-powered helper tool. Every day, WordleBot analyzes the games of everyone who plays and reports an average score. And today, he says people solve it in an average of 5 guesses.
I’ve been tracking those average scores since WordleBot launched in April 2022, give or take a few games here and there, and I have a list of all 318 so far in 2023. Of those just six games: JAZZY (average score 5.5 ), RIPER (5.4), JOKER (5.4), NANNY (5.2), KAZOO (5.1) and VERVE (5.1) are more difficult than today’s SASSY. COWER, meanwhile, matched it at 5.0.
As for why it’s so difficult, well, like I said, it’s because of that three-times-repeated S.
Only 20 of Wordle’s 2,309 original answers have a triple letter, that is, just 0.87% of all games. And it turns out that S gets the triple treatment in just two answers, the other being SISSY, which was the solution in June 2021, game #2, long before any of us played.
The other games so far that have had three of the same letter are ERROR (game #71), FLUFF (#382), MUMMY (#491), NANNY (#714) and most recently DADDY (#833), at the end of September.
In short: this is rare. But it gets worse, because SASSY also suffers from another Wordle problem.
too many answers
Some of Wordle’s most difficult words owe their surprising qualities to the number of alternative answers that have the same pattern but with only one or two different letters.
A classic example is an answer like HOUND, because there are seven alternative words that differ only by the first letter: ROUND, SOUND, MOUND, FOUND, HIT, BOUND, and WOUND.
SASSY isn’t that bad, but if you had the SA–Y part, as many of you probably have, you would have been able to choose from a dozen words: SAUCY, SANDY, SAPPY, SAGGY, SAVVY, SAVOY, SALLY, SADLY, SALTY , SAMEY, SATAY and SASSY himself. I don’t know if they are all genuine Wordle answers, but they probably all occurred to some people today.
And this is where I went wrong.
First of all, I couldn’t come up with a good list of what words could actually be answers. After my second guess, SALAD, I had six left, according to WordleBot. But you can only use WordleBot once the game is over, so I didn’t know that at the time and only came up with three. These were SAVVY, SAGGY and SAPPY, but I somehow missed SAUCY, SASSY and SAVOY.
This was almost a fatal mistake. Obviously you can’t always find all the possible answers, but when there are only six left you should be able to find more than half of them.
Secondly, I did not carefully limit these three words in my next assumption. Unless you play Wordle on hard mode, which forces you to include letters you’ve already discovered in each subsequent guess, there are times when it’s much better to give up on the idea of getting a good score and instead focus on safeguarding your streak .
This involves playing with “throwaway words,” specifically words that may not be the answer but will narrow down the options. Basically, you accept that you’re not going to get a 3/6 or a 4/6, but rather you play a couple of carefully chosen words that guarantee a safe 5/6.
I really should have done this today, maybe playing something like PONGY. This would have told me that the answer couldn’t be SAPPY or SAGGY, and at the same time would have confirmed that the answer ended in Y. I would have played SAVVY next and been wrong, but more importantly, I would now have been left with two guesses. and two words. to choose from (SAUCY and SASSY).
Instead, I played SAVVY third, SAGGY fourth, and SAPPY fifth, leaving me with a 50/50 between SASSY and SAUCY in my final guess.
I have jealously guarded my streak since I started playing Wordle in December 2021, reaching 680 games without losing in that time. And today I could have lost it simply because I didn’t follow my own rules and didn’t play with a little caution.
As it happens, I survived unscathed – I assumed SASSY without even realizing SAUCY was a possibility, but I got lucky and ended up with a last-gasp 6/6 score. But it could easily have been different.
So yes, today’s Wordle is very, very difficult, but I made it even worse than necessary. Next time I’ll be more careful.