If you’re a frequent reader of this column, you know that I love words. I suppose that’s a good quality in a writer and editor.
I was one of those children who had learned how to read before she got to 1st grade.
By 4th grade, I was working the crossword puzzle in the daily newspaper. I also loved the Jumble, word search, word scramble and any other kind of word puzzle I could find.
Later on, and still pre-internet, I bought book after book of word games. When “Wheel of Fortune” first appeared on television, I watched religiously. In my head, I didn’t buy any vowels from Vanna.
As my down-time activities have shifted online over the past decade or so I’ve downloaded numerous apps to replace the games on paper.
So no one will be surprised when I confess to being newly obsessed with Wordle, the online word game that challenges players to find the daily “target” five-letter word by trying different words until you get the correct answer.
The only clues are that if you get a letter in the right spot, the square turns green. If you have a letter correct, but not in the right spot, it goes yellow. Gray spots are wrong altogether.
Oh, and you get just six tries! And you only get one puzzle a day, and it’s the same puzzle for everyone.
Pretty tough sell, isn’t it? Not to the 48 gazillion (my guesstimate) players currently waiting for 12:01 a.m. so they can play again!
If you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, you should know that Wordle is the latest online puzzle rage for word lovers. It was created by one Josh Wardle, who said he created it for his partner, who loves word puzzles.
Wardle first published it in October 2021, a mere five months ago. On Nov. 1, 90 people played it. According to the New York Times, two months later, the game had 300,000 regular players. That number has skyrocketed to “millions.”
No wonder the NYT purchased the game at the end of January for what they reported was “an undisclosed price in the low-seven figures.” The game has now moved to nytimes.com/games/wordle.
But I digress. The fun starts with a “guess” or “starter” word. Some players use the same word every single day. Some alternate among a few selected favorites, and still others just wing it and try different starter words each day.
I started out as a “wing it” player, until it occurred to me that I could game the system a bit by using all the vowels in the first two guesses.
Then, I looked up the most commonly used letters in English vocabulary and created a few starter words using the first several letters. It was an “ah ha” moment. I changed course and now usually start with RATIO.
(For the record, according to somewhat reliable sources, including the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, those letters are E, A, R, I, O, T, N, S, L and C.)
If one word a day isn’t enough for you, try Absurdle, an “adversarial” variant. It uses a similar algorithm as Wordle, except the target word changes as you continue to guess. It once took me nine tries to get the final answer.
There are other knock-offs, such as Wordle Unlimited, Dwordle (two games at once) and Worldle (all about geography).
For now, though, I’m happy with one or two games a day, though I might decide to change my start word. How about WORDS?