Today's Wordle is one of the most difficult we've had so far in 2023. It's the kind of game that will have dedicated Wordlers pulling out their hair in frustration. It will lead to many a curse word. It will spoil many a breakfast.
And of course, it will end many a long-running streak. Indeed, it very nearly cost me mine. But tough though this Wordle undoubtedly is, my pain was also self-inflicted – because I made a couple of key mistakes that I should long ago have consigned to the trashcan of history.
To explain what they were, I'll need to include SPOILERS FOR TODAY'S WORDLE, GAME #878, ON TUESDAY, 14 NOVEMBER 2023. So please don't read on if you haven't already completed it. Just bear in mind that you might want some Wordle hints before doing so.
Before I get to my mistakes, let's talk about today's Wordle word and exactly how hard it was.
The answer to game #878, assuming you've played by now **FINAL SPOILER ALERT**, is SASSY – and it doesn't take a genius to see what the problem with it is. Or rather, what the three problems are, namely that 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. Each day, WordleBot analyzes the games of everyone who plays and reports an average score for it. And today, it says people are solving it in an average of 5 guesses.
I've recorded those average scores since WordleBot launched in April 2022, give or take a few games here and there, and have a list of all 318 so far in 2023. Of those only six games – JAZZY (5.5 average score), RIPER (5.4), JOKER (5.4), NANNY (5.2), KAZOO (5.1) and VERVE (5.1) – are harder than today's SASSY. COWER, meanwhile, matched it at 5.0.
As to why it's so difficult, well as I said it's down to that thrice-repeated S.
Only 20 of Wordle's 2,309 original answers have a triple letter in them – so a mere 0.87% of all games. And as it happens, S gets the triple treatment in only two answers, with the other being SISSY, which was the solution in June 2021, game #2 – so way before any of us were playing.
The other games so far to 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 an uncommon occurrence. But it gets worse, because SASSY also suffers from another Wordle problem.
Too many answers
Some of the most difficult Wordle words owe their head-scratching qualities to the number of alternative answers that have the same pattern but with only one or two differing letters.
A classic example is an answer like HOUND – because there are seven alternative words that differ by just the first letter: ROUND, SOUND, MOUND, FOUND, POUND, BOUND and WOUND.
SASSY is not quite so bad as that, but if you had the SA--Y part, as many of you probably will have done, you'll have been able to pick from a dozen words: SAUCY, SANDY, SAPPY, SAGGY, SAVVY, SAVOY, SALLY, SADLY, SALTY, SAMEY, SATAY and SASSY itself. I don't know that all are genuine Wordle answers, but all probably occurred to some people today.
And this is where I screwed up.
Firstly, I failed to come up with a good list of which words could actually be answers. After my second guess, SALAD, I had six of them remaining, according to WordleBot. But you can only use WordleBot once the game has finished, so I didn't know that at the time and only came up with three myself. These were SAVVY, SAGGY and SAPPY, but somehow I missed SAUCY, SASSY and SAVOY.
This was nearly a fatal error. Obviously you can't always come up with all of the possible answers, but when there are only six left you should be able to find more than half of them.
Secondly, I didn't then carefully narrow down these three words on my next guess. Unless you play Wordle on Hard Mode – which forces you to include letters you've already uncovered on each subsequent guess – there are times when it's far better to give up on the idea of getting a good score, and instead focus on safeguarding your streak.
This involves playing 'throwaway words' – specifically, words that can't be the answer but which will narrow down the options. Essentially, you accept that you're not going to score a 3/6 or 4/6 but play a couple of carefully chosen words that guarantee a safe 5/6.
I really, really should have done this today, perhaps playing something like PONGY. This would have told me the answer couldn't be SAPPY or SAGGY, while confirming that the answer ended with a Y. I'd have played SAVVY next and been wrong, but crucially I'd now have had two guesses left 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 on my final guess.
I've guarded my streak jealously since I started playing Wordle in December 2021, reaching 680 games without a loss in that time. And today, I could have lost it simply because I didn't follow my own rules and play with a bit of caution.
As it happens, I survived unscathed – I guessed SASSY without ever realizing that SAUCY was a possibility, but rode my luck and ended up with a last-gasp 6/6 score. But it could so easily have been different.
So yes, today's Wordle is really, really difficult, but I made it even worse than it needed to be. Next time, I'll be more careful.
You might also like
Get daily insight, inspiration and deals in your inbox
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
Marc is TechRadar’s UK Editor in Chief, the latest in a long line of senior editorial roles he’s held in a career that started the week that Google launched (nice of them to mark the occasion). Prior to joining TR, he was UK Editor in Chief on Tom’s Guide, where he oversaw all gaming, streaming, audio, TV, entertainment, how-to and cameras coverage. He's also a former editor of the tech website Stuff and spent five years at the music magazine NME, where his duties mainly involved spoiling other people’s fun. He’s based in London, and has tested and written about phones, tablets, wearables, streaming boxes, smart home devices, Bluetooth speakers, headphones, games, TVs, cameras and pretty much every other type of gadget you can think of. An avid photographer, Marc likes nothing better than taking pictures of very small things (bugs, his daughters) or very big things (distant galaxies). He also enjoys live music, gaming, cycling, and beating Wordle (he authors the daily Wordle hints page).