Wordle, is it a game or a challenge?

It’s Monday, Day 21 and I wasted yesterday. Really wasted it. I spent the entire afternoon on things unimportant and certainly not urgent.

One day summer won’t be summer break, it will be life in retirement. I’ve often told folks who marvel my summer break (envy) that I think of summer break as an audition for retirement. If so, I am not going to get a call back.

In my last post I referenced the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I was replying to a comment and I found a great resource from the folks at FranklinCovey, it’s an overview of the 7 Habits – click if you like. I’ve been using their products for over twenty years to plan my day and organize my daily and weekly tasks. Every year I get a little better at it learning from my failures and successes.

my stats as of Monday, June 26, 2023

One of the parts of my daily routine playing the New York Times Wordle. I don’t remember how I started, but I did. It could’ve been my daughter, or the buzz on social media as folks posted their solution to the day’s Wordle. If you haven’t played it, it is a simple game. You have six guesses to guess the day’s word. The word is five letters long and with each guess you get feedback.

  • Green squares mean that the letter you guessed is in the correct position in the day’s word.
  • Yellow squares mean the letter you guessed is in the word day’s but not in that space.
  • Gray squares mean that the letter you guessed is not in that day’s word.

According to an article in The Ledger, there over 158,000 five-letter words in the English language, but the Official Scrabble Dictionary puts the number at about 9,000 words. Somewhere I read the Wordle game has a dictionary at just over 2,300 words and doesn’t use plurals as solutions.

I find Wordle challenging, and I find it frustrating, too. Most mornings, playing the day’s Wordle is the last thing I do before getting started on the day – showering and heading off to school. But in the summer, I have more time and less urgency (and thus more time to write and dream).

Some days, the puzzle takes five to ten minutes or as quickly as two minutes like it was this morning. And there are days when I can’t see a solution and come back later.

Last summer, I began to track my daily results and approach playing the game as a scientist. At the point, it took an average of 4.46 attempts to solve the puzzle. Since then, my average slowly declined and is currently 4.05 attempts to solve the puzzle, though the month of June has been awful with a miss and several five and six attempt days and a monthly average of 4.23.

Why use data and metrics?

I wanted to use playing the game to show my students that you can apply science to playing a game. Observe your play, make guesses (claims), apply your observations, guess again and so on. In doing so, my daily average since applying scientific principles is 3.85 guesses per attempt.

The first thing that I did was compare my solution to the NY Times Wordle bot – the bot plays the game and analyzes the results of its play and your play. Most of the time the bot outplays me, but there are times when I play better than the bot. Some mornings it’s luck and sometimes it’s skill – knowing word patterns, consonant blends, and how vowels are used.

The second thing I did was changing from random first word selections such as ADIEU, NORTH, SOUTH, or CRATE to using the same word each time I attempted the puzzle. I adopted the bot’s first word – LEAST to my play.

The third thing I did was sharing my daily play with a group of friends from Loaves and Fishes in a text stream. We share our solution – the puzzle makes it easy to share with social media or in a text or an email – and a little playful banter. Some days I win, some days I lose, but I enjoy the banter.

Lately though, I’ve abandoned the same word strategy and gone with the flow. The results are all over the place. I am NYTimes subscriber and can access the Wordlebot. It helps, but on average the bot wins three out of ten plays, though if I count ties were even. I read in a daily wordle review last week, another feature available to NYTimes subscribers, that if you start the game with same word each day, you are not playing a game, you are building an algorithm. I am going to continue to play Wordle like a scientist, but I am going to switch it up. Maybe follow my HEART more and my BRAIN less. Who knows.

How is this even relevant to making the days count? Because even simple game play is good for Sharpening the Saw – Habit 7 of the Seven Habits. Playing the game daily keeps me thinking and as I have an eye on one day making summer break the norm – aka retiring from teaching. I want to stay active and agile; I might have discovered tomorrow’s starting word. A-G-I-L-E.

Today’s going to be a great day. The weather turned cool and wet. Yesterday we had rain for the first time in weeks. It was good for the yard and the gardens, and it might have fueled my malaise yesterday afternoon. I am packing for my baseball trip. I am taking the train; it will be my first ever train trip in the United States. I am excited and looking forward to the train ride and the two games in St. Louis. I have got chores, packing, and volunteering this evening at Loaves and Fishes So I had better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, practicing each summer day for retirement.  

Have you played World? If so how do you do?

7 thoughts on “Wordle, is it a game or a challenge?

  1. I love everything of and in this post. Re: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – I have a maybe unusual story to this book. For a Swiss woman this is NOT the 1st book you think of buying, and anyway, was I not effective enough with a family, dog, job, hobbies and duties? But I did buy it, long before internet, YTube and such and I found it so good that I bought it for a young friend of whom I thought it would be helpful in his career…. He said that his uncle, living in the US, gave it to him already and we discussed it at length…. I still have it and although I never really, really needed it or used it much, I’m still impressed by the wisdom of it.
    Then, Wordle…. yes, I do it, whenever I find time and I’m rather proud of myself, if I may say so. As a German/French/English speaker I have realised that I have a vast vocabular in the English language and when I find the solution by chance rather than knowledge, I like to have learned some new words already. I have no clue HOW to correctly use the game, I have no strategy, I’m using any old word coming to my mind to start me off, always trying to use e, a already in the 1st try…. but I didn’t know that wordle doesn’t accept plurals… that takes care of my words ending with an ‘s’ I guess! Thanks for that hint.
    Have a lovely, long, leisurely summer break. Here it’s HOT, uncomfortably so, but we make do with it…. it’s better than snow, rain, sleet.

    1. Kiki what a surprise. I haven’t written much since last summer, I stay busy teaching that the blog takes a back seat. The 7 Habits book changed the course of my life, I wish I had read it as a young man, but it wasn’t published until 1989. I did my Masters of Education research project on teaching adolescents about its principles. I gave my daughter the 30th anniversary copy for her 18th birthday. She’s got a pretty good head on her shoulders. I am so glad to read you are a Wordler. My strategy is to play the game and have fun. I share with a group of friends and I started sharing with my colleagues at school. We would talk at lunch no shush each other to keep from giving hints. This morning, I am traveling via train to St. Louis for a couple of baseball games in a new to me ballpark. I am excited for the games but I am having fun on my first real train ride in the US! I’ve travelled on the commuter rail in Chicago and New York but never taken the train to another city in America. In Europe I have travelled on British Rail and taken the French TGV so it’s exciting and fun. Working at making the days count by putting first things first! Stay well, peace.

  2. I never got sucked in the Wordle craze. In fact, I’ve never even tried it. I do have a similar game that I play on my phone in the evenings but I find myself cheating (looking up words using the word unscrambler app) so I’m not really using the full extent of my brain. But, then again, it is the end of the day and I’m usually tired and watching TV at the same time, so . . .

    Anyway, I love word games, just don’t want to get sucked into something that takes time away from my writing, which I’m really trying hard to make a priority.

    Enjoy your prequel to retirement!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    1. So good to hear from you! I miss reading about the inn. We sold our stepmom’s home in February we even got our asking price. I have never felt so relieved when the sale went through. I understand about the Wordle, my daughter got me started and then stopped playing. I hope your writing and the in are doing well. I am going to have to come up with a trip next summer to stop in Vicksburg. Stay well and please do share something hilarious about the inn soon. Pleaseeeeeee.

Thanks for visiting MtDC. How are YOU Making YOUR Days Count?