Note: If you thought this Wordle was tough, wait til you try game #675. In fact, today's Wordle answer is the hardest of 2023 so far.
If you struggled to solve today's Wordle puzzle then you're not alone. Twitter is awash with bad-luck stories on the '#Wordle 671 X' hashtag, and the NYT's AI helper tool WordleBot gives it a super-high average score of 4.4.
So what's the problem - and how can you avoid losing your streak on a day like today without turning to Wordle hints for help?
To explain, I'll need to discuss the game in detail - which means SPOILERS FOR WORDLE #671, Friday, 21 April 2023, follow after this point. Don't read on if you haven't already played!
A tough Wordle in another tough week
There's no doubt that Wordle #671 is among the hardest puzzles we've had this year - although it's actually easier than Tuesday's HOUND and on a par with Monday's WHIFF.
How do I know that? Well, WordleBot gives each game an average score based on a sample of every game it sees. It's analyzed 48,799 games so far today, and gives the word a mighty score of 4.4. To put it in context, yesterday's answer, PLATE, rated just 2.9!
Admittedly, PLATE was a particularly easy solve, but even compared to most games today's answer - KAYAK - is a tough one.
I don't have average scores for every single Wordle, partly because WordleBot only started recording them well after the game's launch in June 2021. But I do have about 200 scores recorded - so about 30% of the total. Of those, KAYAK comes in at joint 30th - putting it in the top 15% of Wordles.
In reality, it's probably tougher than that. Average score depends on multiple factors, not least how many people fail on a given day. I suspect that unlike HOUND - which a staggering 21% of all people failed - KAYAK will result in lots of 6/6s but not so many Xs. That's because once you get a couple of letters, there aren't so many possible options remaining to you.
So, with today's game, I'd imagine nearly everyone will find it difficult, despite the fact that its average score is lower than the 4.6 that HOUND warranted.
That said, people are failing it:
Wordle 671 X/6⬜⬜⬜🟩⬜⬜⬜⬜🟩⬜⬜⬜⬜🟩⬜⬜⬜⬜🟩⬜⬜🟩⬜🟩⬜⬜🟩⬜🟩⬜ pic.twitter.com/jk7IMvAe4qApril 21, 2023
And it's hardly a surprise given that KAYAK contains just three letters, of which one is really uncommon.
Repeated letters are not particularly unusual in Wordle. I analyzed every Wordle answer for TechRadar's sister site Tom's Guide, and found that of the 2,309 original solutions, 748 - around 32% - duplicate at least one letter.
However, the number of games that repeat two letters is far, far smaller: there are just 38 of these, of which KAYAK is the ninth. Past Wordle answers that include two repeated letters include SALSA (game #606), MADAM (#387) and CACAO (#364). Each of these had a high average score of well above 4/6, and I remember CACAO in particular causing all manner of problems.
KAYAK is arguably harder than any of those. All repeat one vowel and one consonant, but today's consonant, K, is far less common than the others in the list above. In fact, it's the seventh least common letter in Wordle overall, ahead of only W, V, Q, Z, X and J.
It's definitely not a letter that many people will include in their start word, which alone is enough to make it a difficult puzzle to solve. Added to that, today's Wordle answer includes a Y - but doesn't place it at the end of the word. This is another really uncommon occurrence in the game, because of the 424 times Y turns up in Wordle, a massive 364 of them finish the answer. The number of times it appears in the middle of a word? Just 29.
So we're all agreed, then: this was a tough answer to find. But there were things you could do to give yourself the best chance of success…
Tips to solve a tricky Wordle like today's
1. Use a good starting word
This one should be standard practice for anyone who wants to get high scores and a long-lasting streak. I know it's not for everyone, but it really does make a difference.
I've got a full guide to the best Wordle starting words, so if you don't currently have one and think you should, have a read of that. But the TLDR version is that certain words massively reduce the number of guesses you'd expect to need each game. Most include an A and an E, plus three out of S, T, L, R, C and N. WordleBot's favorite is SLATE, my pick is STARE, but any of the top 10 options will make a big difference to your game.
The most popular start words - ADIEU and AUDIO - don't feature in the list, because vowels are generally not as helpful as consonants.
2. Really think about that second guess
OK, so this could be bordering on the bleeding obvious now - use a good first word, use a good second word - but there's an entirely natural tendency to just play the first obvious word you find on the second go.
Resist this urge.
Unless your start word really narrowed things down a lot (usually by giving you a couple of green letters), you'll probably have several dozen possible solutions (or even 100+) remaining for the second guess. Unless you get really, really lucky, you won't score a 2/6 - so forget about that. Instead, focus on what words could still be the answers and what patterns they have.
For instance, I know that the most common ending letters are E, Y, T and R. Three of those were already ruled out in my first guess, so it made sense for me to include the Y in my second. I also know that A is most common in positions 2 and 3 - so if it wasn't in 3 today, it was probably in 2. Simple.
Yes, I had some luck today, but probability played its part too.
3. Don't discount repeated letters
As I said above, repeated letters are actually pretty common in Wordle. Most people are reluctant to play them, because they 'waste' a letter. But there are times when they're well worth considering early on.
For starters, if you have a yellow letter that could go in multiple positions, playing it twice can help you turn it green quickly. This is a tactic that WordleBot regularly employs - for instance playing RADAR if it has a yellow R and yellow A.
Secondly, some letters are just much more likely to be repeated than others. E is the most common (by far): there are 172 Wordle answers in which it appears twice. O, L and A are other letters that are pretty likely to turn up more than once.
Admittedly, playing K twice early on is not usually a good choice, so today's game just proves once again that every Wordle has the potential to break the rules.