Every now and then, Wordle throws one of its most difficult type of games at us. And today is one of those days.
In fact, Wordle #749 is one of the hardest so far this year. Harder than BORAX, harder than HOUND, harder than COCOA and KAYAK and MAIZE. Hard enough that #Wordle749 is trending on Twitter and people are losing their streaks.
So what makes it so tough – and how can you make sure you solve a puzzle like today’s without turning to Wordle hints for help?
To explain, I’ll need to discuss the game in detail – which means SPOILERS FOR WORDLE #749, Saturday, 8 July 2023, follow after this point. Don’t read on if you haven’t already played!
Just how difficult is today’s Wordle?
There are various ways to judge the difficulty of a Wordle answer, and a couple of them live on Twitter. One sure sign is that ‘Wordle 749 X‘ is already trending high on the platform, with a long line of people posting that they’ve lost their streak today.
Hate words like this.#Wordle749Wordle 749 5/6🟨🟨⬜🟨⬜🟩🟨🟨⬜⬜🟩🟩⬜🟩🟩🟩🟩⬜🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩July 8, 2023
Annoying! #wordle749 Wordle 749 X/6🟨🟨🟨⬜⬜🟨🟨⬜🟨⬜🟩⬜🟨⬜🟨🟩🟩⬜⬜🟨🟩🟩⬜🟩⬜🟩🟩⬜🟩⬜July 8, 2023
One of those words where it could’ve been anything Goodluck fellow wordlers and have a great day Wordle 749 X/6* #wordle749 ⬜⬜⬜🟩⬜⬜🟩🟩🟩🟩⬜🟩🟩🟩🟩⬜🟩🟩🟩🟩⬜🟩🟩🟩🟩⬜🟩🟩🟩🟩 pic.twitter.com/DSMrLIJTcQJuly 7, 2023
Wordle 749 X/6⬛🟩⬛🟨🟨 It ALWAYS ends⬛🟩🟨🟩⬛ badly with this ⬛🟩⬛🟩🟩 combination ⬛🟩⬛🟩🟩🥴⬛🟩🟩🟩🟩⬛🟩🟩🟩🟩😡😤🤬Good Luck! 🍀🤞🏼#Wordle749#WordleWonderLeague pic.twitter.com/KYkv9bfMvdJuly 7, 2023
Wordle 749 X/6⬜🟨⬜⬜🟨⬜🟩⬜🟩🟩⬜🟩⬜🟩🟩⬜🟩⬜🟩🟩⬜🟩⬜🟩🟩🟩🟩⬜🟩🟩I am SUING WORDLE!!!July 8, 2023
Another is to look at the Wordle Stats Twitter account, which records the number of people failing each puzzle. However, this doesn’t update until the next day, so we can’t use that to judge Wordle #749.
What we can do is look at WordleBot, the New York Times’ AI helper tool. This samples thousands of games each day and records an average score for each one – and right now, the average is at 5.0.
I don’t know the average score for every Wordle so far, partly because WordleBot only launched halfway through the game’s life. But I do have about 350 or so listed on a spreadsheet, including all of them so far in 2023. And by that measure, today’s answer is the sixth hardest this year, and the 11th hardest ever.
To put it in context, the overall average is around 4.0 – so 5.0 is significantly more difficult and perilously close to breaching the game’s six-guesses-and-you’re-out rule.
I’ll assume that if you’re still reading, you’ve finished playing, so let’s talk about today’s answer: COWER.
Not too difficult a word, right? Well, the problem is that it ends in ER.
Too many options
These kind of Wordles – let’s call them ER games – have a particular problem, which is identified by the repeated cries of ‘Too many options’ from those bemoaning their luck on Twitter.
The problem is that there are lots of possible combinations. Obviously the number of options open to you will depend on which of the best Wordle starting words you use – or indeed, if you use any at all – but either way, there will be many.
Early last year, soon after Wordle exploded in popularity, I spent a happy few hours analyzing the letter data from the original 2,309 answers for TechRadar’s sister site, Tom’s Guide. My Wordle analysis found that there are 141 answers that end in ER, a total that is way higher than for any other ending combination. The next most common ending combo, CH, occurs just 56 times.
More danger lies in the fact that even once you work out that it ends in ER, and that it has an O in the second position, there are still 16 possible starting letters and 16 that could be the third letter. That’s way too many for you to be able to narrow things down easily in your remaining guesses.
Let’s take my game today as an example:
I uncovered the E and R on the first guess, and by the end of the second I’d ruled out two vowels, A and I, plus five of the most common consonants: S, T, L, N and D.
However, I still had at least 38 possible solutions open to me, according to WordleBot. These included BOXER, COVER, COWER, FEVER, FOYER, GOFER, HOVER, JOKER, MOWER, POWER, ROGER, REFER and UPPER – or in other words, almost all of the remaining letters in the alphabet!
If you play Wordle on Hard mode then this kind of game can be almost impossible to win unless you plan for the possibility and play very, very careful. Even then, you’ll probably need some luck along the way.
If you don’t play on hard mode, you can at least narrow things down by playing ‘throwaway’ words that use as many of the remaining letters as possible.
Playing the right ones can be quite a challenge in itself, though. I went with CHOMP in order to rule in/out C, M, H and P, and (hopefully) confirm that the second vowel was an O.
I was fortunate: if none of those letters had been included, I would still have had a choice of BUYER, FEWER, FEVER, QUEER, REFER, FREER or FRYER, according to WordleBot – and with only three guesses remaining, I would have been in trouble.
Even if the O had turned yellow, I might still have had a choice between FOYER, OFFER, BOXER, ROVER, JOKER, ROWER, GOFER, BOWER and ROGER.
As it was, I got lucky: with the C turning green, I now had a straight choice between COWER, COVER and the less likely CORER, and scraped home with a 5/6.
But many others won’t be so lucky today. If you’re one of them, the tips below might help you fare better next time.
Tips to solve a Wordle like today’s
1. Use a good starting word
I will repeat this mantra every time I give advice about Wordle, because it is the single most important step you can take to extend your streak. Many people prefer to use a different word each day, and that’s fine – but you have to accept that your chances of failing will increase, on average.
Have a read of my guide to the best Wordle starting words, pick one you like, then stick with it. It’s the only way.
2. Identify the ER pattern as early as possible
Given that ER words have so many possible solutions, it’s vital that you spot the trap as soon as you can. Obviously you have an advantage if your starter word includes those two letters; mine does, as do the likes of CRATE, CRANE and TRACE. You’ll certainly want to have played both of those letters by the end of the second guess, unless you know for sure it’s not an ER word (because, for instance, you’ve already got a green Y at the end).
3. Find the other vowel
The next step is to work out whether it’s an -A-ER, -E-ER, -I-ER, -O-ER or -U-ER word. You should be able to combine this with step 4…
4. Narrow down those consonants
Once you know the puzzle ends with ER, on normal mode at least, you can forget about those two letters and start playing others in those spots to narrow things down as quickly as possible. No, you won’t score a 3/6 – but that’s not going to happen anyway. Your objective is to escape with your streak intact.
5. List your options
On days like this, I find it really helpful to write down as many options as I can think of. That helps me to identify which letters could still be included and therefore which words I should play on my third, fourth and fifth guesses to narrow things down. Look at all of the words you’ve listed and see which consonants they have in common. If a V appears in six of them and a K in only one then try to include the V first, and so on.
After that, it’s simply a case of crossing your fingers and hoping that things work out. And if they don’t? Well, take solace in the fact that you won’t be the only one to fail on a day like today.