The Chinese proverb says that a journey of a million miles begins with a single step. Even in a game of Wordle you have to start somewhere, and most people who play the game for a while seem to gravitate towards a favourite opening word. But what sort of word should we look for to use as an effective starting point?
The first criterion that I would lay down is that it should not use the same letter twice. I want to give myself five chances of finding a letter, and even if none of the letters in my word is correct, at least I will have eliminated five letters rather than three or four for future guesses. For this reason, a word that uses only three or four different letters such as KAYAK or STEEL would be very wasteful.
The second thing I want to do is to use some of the most frequently occurring letters. I don’t want my opening word to include a Q, X, or Z, or any of the letters that have a high value in Scrabble®. So I like to use A and E, the two most common vowels, and match these with the flexible letters R and S, both of which can occur next to lots of other letters. This has led me to my current opener of choice, which is TARES*. This uses five common letters, and has S at the key position at the end of the word, telling me from the start whether I am looking for a genuine five-letter word or four-letter word in the plural.
Let’s see how this worked out for me in Wordle #275 on 21st March.
Guessing three letters was a great start and set me up for a quick game. I now wanted to find a word that used the R and E in different positions, and I wanted to introduce another vowel to help fill out the skeleton of the word. I considered TRICE, TRUCE, and TROPE before deciding on TRIPE* as the option that used more frequently occurring letters.
Using I rather than the less common O or U as my new vowel worked out well, and I now had four letters. I also knew that the E must come in either second or third position and the R must come in either fourth or fifth position. There were only four patterns: TE-R-, T-ER-, TE—R, and T-E-R. I just had to find a way of fitting the I into one of these patterns.
There might have been a chance that the word started TIE–, but the only word that fits that pattern is TIERS, and I could rule that out because I knew from my first guess that the word does not contain an S. So the letter I had to come after the E, in one of the patterns TEIR-, T-ERI, TEI-R, TE-IR, and T-EIR. There was only one word that could fit:
Sticking to commonly occurring letters and not repeating letters led to a solution in three guesses. It won’t always work out quite this well, but it does increase your chances of success in the long-term.
tare any of various vetch plants, such as Vicia hirsuta of Eurasia and N Africa
tripe the stomach lining of an ox, cow, or other ruminant, prepared for cooking
You can also visit our Wordle Helper, a word-finding tool to help you narrow down your choices of five-letter words based on the results in your Wordle game.
Written by Ian Brookes, writer and editor.
All opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Collins, or its parent company, HarperCollins.