As usual, we're going to be spoiling today's Wordle answer if you read on - so make sure you've solved it first before scrolling on.
Is this the hardest week in Wordle history? If you look at Google Trends this week, with people searching for the Wordle answer, you might think that it's been almost impossibly difficult:
If you followed that graph, and looked at the trending Twitter terms, you'd easily surmise that the WATCH, the answer last Friday, and newer entries CATER and MOVIE all causing issues.
Then we get to the most recent answer, SAUTE, and that seems like it should be one of the hardest. Many people will get the __UTE element of the word, or even SA__E, and they'll pronounce the U or A phonetically, which means they'll skip over the answer in the mental machinations.
But the trends suggest that people are fine with SAUTE, but struggled terribly with WATCH... so what's going on?
We spoke to Shaun Savage, editor in chief of Try Hard Guides (opens in new tab), a site with its own dedicated Wordle solver pages, and he gave some surprising statistics:
"[MOVIE] definitely [gave] people some challenge. By and far, 56% of people... figured out that the word end[ed] in 'IE' but are struggling to think of words that fit.
"Following that, about 15% of people...figured out there's at least an O in the word. It seems like the "V" is the most difficult letter to determine!
"We [weren't] even seeing too many people looking for "OVIE" or "MO_IE," so it seems many are getting 2-3 letters but getting four is a struggle.
"Our page on '5 letter words' ending in IE (opens in new tab)' was the most trafficked post [on the day of the answer]- a lot of people like to get ideas but, perhaps, not just get to the answer immediately, so these types of posts help clear away some fog."
So it's clear that Wordle #261 was, perhaps, one of the hardest in a while, even if it's not had the same number of players desperately searching for the answer online.
But what about the last seven days as a whole?
The hardest Wordle week ever?
With three words this week that trended massively on Twitter (and saw massive spikes in traffic to our Wordle hints and answer page), does that mean this has been the hardest time for Wordle users yet... especially against the backdrop of accusations against NY Times making the game easier?
And while it has been a very difficult week, it appears that people are searching for Wordle answers for different reasons this week - rhyming words mean people can get to their final guess with no obvious answer:
"From our data, this week has been harder than the earlier weeks in March, though, with a good mix of reasons. _ATCH just had a lot of options and people quickly maxed out on guesses," added Savage.
"Words like TODAY, FOCUS and SMELT all had slightly less popular letters in them; SMELT is also not a commonly used word so the 'SM' and 'LT' combinations may have been tricky.
"CATER was the same way; common letters, so many quickly found as possibilities but lots of options. MOVIE has three vowels and contains two lesser-used consonants (M and V)."
A better week ahead
It's good to hear that things have been tricky this week - we at TechRadar have had such a tough week that we've even run live blogs on the hardest puzzles to allow readers to air their thoughts on the difficulty.
We also spoke to Dr Matthew Voice (opens in new tab), an Assistant Professor in Applied Linguistics at the UK’s University of Warwick, previously to find out why CATER was such a tough word:
“Looking back at Project Gutenberg's list of common n-grams (opens in new tab),” Dr Voice tells us, “you can really see why getting some of [the] letters in place isn't necessarily narrowing down the possibilities. ER is the fourth most common combination of any two letters in the whole of the English language, it seems, and TER the twelfth most common combination of three.
“That said,” he adds, “I also think it's interesting to think about why 'CATER' might not seem like an immediately obvious option to everyone who's got the point of finding _ATER. The answer to this might be to do with our expectations about morphology – the way we combine together different parts of language to make new words.”
So, while it's impossible to put a full and defined metric against the difficulty of words in the current Wordle games (opens in new tab), it seems that this week has certainly been full of a few pitfalls.
And if you're getting tired of Wordle, then try Scholardle- it's Wordle if you want to make things a lot harder.