Don't freak out over yesterday's Wordle — you're just doing it wrong

Wordle on a smartphone screen
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Update: Wordle Archive, one of the most popular ways to play old Wordle games, just got shut down. This could be bad news for other unofficial Wordle-related apps

Wordle #265 X was trending hard on Twitter yesterday, and the day started very badly for many of the legions of people playing the world's most popular viral word game. Streaks were lost, angry posts were shared and phones were almost certainly thrown across rooms.   

That's hardly a surprise, because unlike today's Wordle answer, it was a really tough one. The problem isn't that the word itself was obscure (it really wasn't) but rather that there were so many possible answers that use some of the same letters in the same places.

Wordle has become an obsession for some of us, and our streaks are a badge of honor, our way of justifying all those hours spent thinking of five-letter words that start with B and end in K, or that have two Ls in the middle.

But I'm here to tell you — yes, you over there who lost your 56-game streak yesterday — that it's your own fault because you've not been doing Wordle right.

In order to explain this, I'll need to reveal spoilers for yesterday's game, #265 — I'm assuming you've all played it by now, but only read on if you're happy with that.

A good Wordle strategy for a bad Wordle day

The game Wordle displayed on two smartphones

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

First, a disclaimer. I only got yesterday's Wordle — WATCH — in 5/6 myself. It's not like I'm a genius and did it in 3/6. (Anyone who did it in 2/6 clearly cheated, and if you got a 1/6 then you got lucky, because the answer must be your regular Wordle start word).

However, I didn't lose my streak, which is officially at 66 but technically at 187, because I've played every previous puzzle, in order, via the Wordle Archive and haven't got one wrong since game 78.

I guard my streak as jealously as my Labrador guards his breakfast, so with a mixture of fear, sadness and anger at the thought that I might lose it. I'm less bothered about getting a high score, although obviously that's a nice bonus. But not failing is my main ambition.   

So with that in mind, when faced with a tricky Wordle puzzle such as yesterday's I play it safe. A look at my game yesterday makes that clear — and it's all about row three.

(Image credit: Wordle)

The problem with WATCH as a Wordle answer is that there are so many damn possibilities that only differ by one letter. For instance, PATCH, LATCH, HATCH, CATCH, MATCH and BATCH all have the same four last letters. 

I realized the potential for disaster early on and went straight into damage-limitation mode. After playing my usual start word, STARE, I played CHANT — which was actually a poor choice as I already knew the A couldn't be there.

But no matter, it confirmed the C and the H as being in the word, making it pretty obvious that the word would end _ATCH.

At that stage I did something that you can't do if you play on Wordle's hard mode, and that's throw away a guess simply to narrow down the possibilities. Look again at my third guess of PLUMB — I knew it wasn't right, but it would immediately tell me which of PATCH, LATCH, MATCH or BATCH could be the right answer.

Or, as actually happened, it told me that it was none of those — which just left two more choices in HATCH and WATCH. That's a 50/50 chance and I got it wrong, but with two guesses still remaining I was able to secure my streak for another day. 

I play in a group of four friends and we're all pretty evenly matched. Sometimes I get the best score, plenty of times I don't. But one of the quartet lost his streak yesterday and the difference between our games was that I played it safe.

So, next time Wordle throws out one of its curveballs, just be careful out there — or risk ending up like one of those many unhappy Twitter users.

Marc McLaren

Formerly Editor in Chief (U.K.) on Tom’s Guide, Marc oversaw all gaming, streaming, audio, TV, entertainment, how-to and cameras coverage, and was also responsible for the site’s U.K.-focused output. He is now U.K. Editor in Chief on TechRadar. Marc previously edited the tech website Stuff and has tested and written about phones, tablets, wearables, streaming boxes, smart home devices, Bluetooth speakers, headphones, games, TVs, cameras and much more. He also spent years on a music magazine, where his duties mainly involved spoiling other people’s fun, and on a car magazine. An avid photographer, he likes nothing better than taking pictures of very small things (bugs, his daughters) or very big things (distant galaxies). When he gets time, he also enjoys gaming (console and mobile), cycling and attempting to watch as much sport as any human can. He's also fallen in love with Wordle over the past six months and is the author of our today's Wordle answer column, in which he supplies hints and strategy tips for the mega-popular word game. Given he's completed every single Wordle so far and only lost once, and analyzed every Wordle answer in search of patterns, he's well qualified to help you safeguard your streak.

  • jakenbrock
    Nope. Definitely not playing it wrong. Just not playing it the cheaty way. First loss ever.
  • Chasin Jason
    Dude, you're playing in Easy mode? :ROFLMAO: What are you, like 12? A winning streak with Easy mode is like being an NFL running back in a kids flag football game.
  • jakenbrock
    Chasin Jason said:
    Dude, you're playing in Easy mode? :ROFLMAO: What are you, like 12? A winning streak with Easy mode is like being an NFL running back in a kids flag football game.
    Hahahaha! And then tells us we're playing it wrong.
  • Briy
    jakenbrock said:
    Nope. Definitely not playing it wrong. Just not playing it the cheaty way. First loss ever.
    That article was bs, I'm sorry. A lot of people play the way he does but that isn't the point. There were more possible words than there were guesses, so yesterday's was more a game of chance than it was a puzzle
  • S.K
    You're right. The folks moaning about it being pure chance don't have a strategy. I got the "-ATCH" after the 3rd guess. And it's obvious to any idiot that there are too many words that end with those 4 letters and my next word was "PUBIC". That eliminates PATCH, BATCH and CATCH.

    The guys who claims it's pure chance, you do use some sort of strategy, don't you? How'd you feel if someone whose only strategy was to always use the same set of six 5 letter words, never used the results of the previous word in the next one and kept crying that you were cheating or it was pure chance?

    Grow up!