How I solved Wordle #251 - spoilers for today's puzzle

Winning at Wordle every day is a daily goal, but the reality is a once-a-day effort to solve a five-letter puzzle that can feel equal parts exhausting and exhilarating. Oh, those rare, solved in three, miraculous solved in two, or incredibly lucky one-and-done. It’s the four, five, and six guesses that really get you - but it’s also those journeys that teach us the most.

For those unfamiliar with Wordle (but then why are you here?), The New York Times’ (recently-purchased) daily word game asks you to guess a five-letter word in six tries.  Simple right?

Well, while we could just tell you the Wordle answer for today, (and yes, we have a page to do just that) it wouldn't be much use, would it? Even if it preserves your streak, it's a hollow victory - this is a game where you're only cheating yourself out of learning.

What starts today is a daily (weekdays) diary of how I, someone whose very existence is predicated on a playing with and using words, solved Wordle. 

Come with me on a journey of how to pick a first word (was I packing vowels or constants?), and what crucial choices I made along the way to winnow out useless letters, collect accurate ones, and then compose them into one seemingly simple five-letter word.

I'll also do my best to share images of my work. Including all the embarrassing mistakes. Come, let’s learn how to Wordle like a pro, together, so you no longer need to grab the answer.

Spoiler Alert: If you do not want to know today’s Wordle answer, STOP READING IMMEDIATELY.

A mid-day break

Today, I'm playing Wordle on my desktop. I figure it’ll make capturing screenshots of my successes and failures a little easier. On a whim, I ask Siri to play The Beatles’ Abbey Road. The classic album should put me in a good headspace for puzzle work.

Wordle Guesses

The Wordle start screen (Image credit: Future)

The first word

I choose quickly, going with FRAME. It’s a little heavy on the consonant side, but the solid anchors of A and E vowels make me confident I should have at least two correct letter hits.

Wordle Guesses

This seemed like a good place to start. (Image credit: Future)

Disaster

In all my weeks of playing, this is the first time I have ever had a zero letters result on Row 1. On the bright side, I have now eliminated five letters from consideration. But now I'm in the unusual position of having to start from scratch. This means I'll once again begin with a word that has a decent mix of vowels and letters. Putting on a brave face, I dive back in.

Wordle Guesses

Not the result I expected. (Image credit: Future)

The second guess

What’s interesting is that the calculation here is already different because key letters like A and E are no longer available to me. This cuts out a significant number of potential five-letter words.

I've used POUND on many previous Wordles. It leans heavily on consonants but also represents the framework of many other five-letter words. In general, it’s always smart to use words that, with one or two changed letters, could be a different five-letter word.

Feeling unexpectedly confident, I hit enter.

Wordle Guesses

This is... going well. (Image credit: Future)

Uh-oh

Things are not going well. Wordle has clearly dug deeper than normal for this quintuple configuration. I got one letter - just the D. At least it’s in the right position. That, in and of itself, helps narrow the list of potential words to an even greater degree. Still, I have very few materials to work with here. Instead of relying on what I have to make the next guess, I must focus on what’s been excluded.

Making a new choice

I never use a scratchpad when Wordling, but I do work out letter configurations in my head before putting them on the Wordle game board. I may also start typing in potential letter combinations in Worlde to see if they spark a word idea. I can do this a dozen or more times before committing.

I also look at letters to identify possible starting letters and what I consider more obvious middle letters. These can be vowels or consonants, but the choices are usually driven by letters I’ve solved for the beginning or end of the word. In this case, all I have is that D.

Looking at what’s left, I notice I have just one vowel (I) left. Y, the sometimes vowel, is still there, but I’m convinced that if it’s in the mix, it’ll be the first letter. That “I”, though. I feel like it has to be used (hard to have a word without a vowel) and has to be in the middle.

Third time’s the charm?

Wordle Guesses

With Wordle, you learn new words every day. (Image credit: Future)

I start by just typing in a few letters to see if they spark full, five-letter inspiration. “HIT,” though, does not.

The work is also full of “is this a word?” guesses. The good news is that Wordle never penalizes you for guessing with words that don’t exist. It just shudders in a rather judgy way to let you know that that simply won’t do.

Guess what, “BILED” is apparently a word, meaning, “Containing, possessing, or having an application of bile.”

Fourth round

I now know two letters, and, somewhat surprisingly, I have them both in the right place. As I guessed, the “I” belonged near the middle. By using an “E” again - even though I know it's not part of the final word - I wasted an opportunity to guess at another letter. In my defense, I really thought “BILED” was not a real word.

I need to take a beat and really analyze what’s left. So many consonants. What could that Wordle be?

In my head, I’m putting every remaining letter ahead of “I” and ending with an “ed” sound just to try and spark some insight. I try a letter combo but don't commit because, as is often the case, my idea doesn’t fit in the allotted five letters.

Stuck, I remind myself that there is a possibility that one or more letters could repeat. I don't see the “I’ doing that, but there could be another “D” in the middle. My brain feels like mush.

Wordle Guesses

You try lots of letter combinations and words or non-words along the way, without committing to any of them. (Image credit: Future)

Starting over, again

At this stage, I can keep grinding away at my available letters or try a word that pulls in as many unused letters as possible to try and pick up one or two more correct letters. Solving this with two, even in the right place seems next to impossible.

In the end, I decide against this method. My problem is that I have too few vowels. The lack of an “E” before the “D” is concerning. Perhaps it’s a “Y” before the “D.”

I change my mind again and go with a word that has the benefit of using four new letters. I’m praying “SIGHT” gets me at least one or two new letters.

Wordle Guesses

Trying a different tactic. (Image credit: Future)

What’s left

Not even remotely what I expected. Only “I” is left standing as “S,” “G,” “H,” and “T” are not in the correct word.

Wordle Guesses

Getting nowhere, fast. (Image credit: Future)

A moment of inspiration

I look at the “V” and start thinking it’s a great letter to go before “I.” Then inspiration hits.

As I noted earlier, I have to leave open the possibility that the word would repeat one or more letters. I enter “VIVID.”

The excitement builds before I hit “Enter.” There’s so much promise in this guess. It’s educated (what’s left to choose, really?) but also a leap.

Wordle Guesses

Could it be? (Image credit: Future)

Success

Wordle Guesses

What a relief. (Image credit: Future)

Wordle awards me a “Great!”. It’s not much of a compliment. It knows I could’ve done better. I’ll take it, though. Just happy to be through this one.

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