What to do when you are stuck at Wordle

Wordle #281 was not my finest hour. However, it did raise the interesting question of how to get started again when you come to a grinding halt.

I started with my usual opening word, using the two most common vowels, A and E:


None of the letters were correct, so I now wanted to find a word that used the two next most common vowels, I and O, together with some other common consonants:


The N was the only correct letter, and even that was not in the correct place. Still undaunted by the fact that the word did not contain any of the four most common vowels, I now tried a word that used both U and Y:


The word did not contain any of the five vowels! I now checked the calendar to see if it was April Fools’ Day, and then checked my settings to see if I had accidentally changed the language to Welsh. But apparently I was indeed still playing in English. Remembering that the previous day’s answer word had been EPOXY*, I wondered if perhaps I was looking for another obscure term relating to chemistry. After a long think, I could not come up with any word that might fit, but I could think of a five-letter word that used only the letter Y as a vowel: LYNCH. I knew that this could not be the correct solution, as my previous guess revealed that the N could not be in the third place. However, with no better option, I tried it anyway just to see if it would give me some more clues:


Suddenly, I had two letters in the correct places and could also see that N must be the first letter, so the solution was clear:


I would not usually recommend using up a guess with a word that you know is not the correct answer, but when you get completely stuck, it can sometimes get you moving in the right direction.

The other option when you get stuck at Wordle is to use the Wordle Helper at https://www.collinsdictionary.com/games/wordle-helper. This clever tool allows you to enter any letter in any of the five spaces and to specify whether it is in the correct position or not. If you specify that it is in the correct position, the letter turns blue; if it is not, the letter appears in orange. (The default is orange, so you need to change the letter to blue if you know it is in the right place.) You can also specify letters that you have already used and that you know are not in the final word.

I used the Wordle Helper to recreate my problem from Wordle #281, with N and Y specified as variable characters and excluding the other letters from my first three guesses. It does indeed come up with NYMPH as the only solution. So I did have enough information to get the word on my fourth guess. Computers one, lexicographers nil.

*Some definitions

tare any of various vetch plants, such as Vicia hirsuta of Eurasia and N Africa

epoxy containing an oxygen atom joined to two different groups that are themselves joined to other groups

nymph (in mythology) a spirit of nature envisaged as a beautiful maiden

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.

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