DeWordle: The Game (or Tool?)

Published Thursday, January 27, 2022 by Bryan

Welcome to De-Wordle, the game. My last two blog posts here have been about how you can solve Wordle games only by looking at colored-block summaries, without knowing any of the words that were guessed. Now you can try it at https://dewordle.beerriot.com/.

To summarize, if this is your first visit, Wordle is a game where you are trying to guess a hidden word. That word has been randomly selected from 2,315 possible five-letter words. You begin by guessing any five letter word you can think of (though it must be a "real" word, as defined by the 2,315 possible answers, plus a list of 10,657 additional non-answer words). Wordle gives you back five colored squares that tell you how each of the letters in your guess relates to the letters in the answer: 🟩/🟧 if the letter in that position is the same letter in that position in the answer, 🟨/🟦 if the letter in that position is in the answer, but in a different position, and ⬜/⬛ if the letter is not in the answer. You get six guesses to get all six letters correct.

This has similarities to a game known as Mastermind. However, in Mastermind, any pattern can be the secret answer, and any pattern can be guessed. Because Wordle requires both the answer and the guesses to come from a limited list of "real" words, you have additional information. You know that you never need to guess, for example, XKRQT, because it's not a word.

Limiting both answers and guesses to a small set (there would be nearly 12 million possible strings of letters, but we're dealing with only 13 thousand), means that not all answers have guesses that will produce each possible pattern of colored squares. And herein lies the game.

In DeWordle, you start with an empty board, which all of the answers can produce (2,315). You guess a pattern of colored squares, say 🟩🟨⬜🟨⬜. DeWordle prunes answers that could never generate that guess pattern, and tells you that there are only 1,994 answer words remaining. Your goal is to continue guessing patterns to whittle down the number of possible answer words to one. Be careful, though, it's possible to whittle it to zero!

One way to play is to choose a word you want to whittle toward. As an example, let's say we want to whittle down to just SHOUT. Thinking about the letters in SHOUT, we know that some of them appear in HOUSE, and that would produce a 🟨🟨🟨🟨⬜. Guessing that pattern, DeWordle tells us there are 1898 words remaining. There are 417 words (=2315-1898) that can never produce that pattern! We might continue by thinking about SNOUT, which would produce a 🟩⬜🟩🟩🟩 when compared to SHOUT. Adding that to our guesses cuts our remaining words to 845.

If we were playing regular Wordle, at this point, we might try SCOUT and SPOUT before finally getting to SHOUT. But in DeWordle, since SCOUT and SPOUT are both 🟩⬜🟩🟩🟩, and we have already guessed that pattern, it doesn't help to guess it again.

A better next guess would be to think about SOUND and enter 🟩🟨🟨⬜⬜. Down to 780 words. What about SOUTH, a 🟩🟨🟨🟨🟨. All the way down to 98 remaining words! STONE would be 🟩🟨🟩⬜⬜ - down to 72. SPORT would be 🟩⬜🟩⬜🟩 - down to 53. SHUNT would be 🟩🟩🟨⬜🟩 - down to 10 words! GHOST is ⬜🟩🟩🟨🟩 … and we win! The only remaining word is SHOUT. To recap:

Pattern Example Remaining
🟨🟨🟨🟨⬜ HOUSE 1898
🟩⬜🟩🟩🟩 SNOUT 845
🟩🟨🟨⬜⬜ SOUND 780
🟩🟨🟨🟨🟨 SOUTH 98
🟩🟨🟩⬜⬜ STONE 72
🟩⬜🟩⬜🟩 SPORT 53
🟩🟩🟨⬜🟩 SHUNT 10
⬜🟩🟩🟨🟩 GHOST 1
DeWordle winning game for SHOUT

Another way to "play" is to use DeWordle as a tool in the same way I did in my previous two blog posts. Search your favorite social network, and tap in the patterns you find your friends posting for the day. You'll reduce your answer search space, maybe far enough to guarantee a win … or even a 1/6. Or you might find that your friends are being devious in their posts, and their patterns will lead you astray!

If any of you play Absurdle, does DeWordle help you think about how to corner the adversarial player?

Play around, and let me know what you find. Can you solve SHOUT with fewer patterns? What's the shortest solution to any word you can find? If you'd like to help improve the game, the code is up on the gh-pages branch of beerriot/dewordle on GitHub. Have fun!

Categories: Development