Physicists crack Wordle code ... but it may not spell the end of the fun

·3-min read
Two computing experts who met at the University of Cambridge have discovered that the code underpinning the Wordle web page contains the list of solutions - STEFANI REYNOLDS /AFP
Two computing experts who met at the University of Cambridge have discovered that the code underpinning the Wordle web page contains the list of solutions - STEFANI REYNOLDS /AFP

There are many approaches to solving a Wordle game. Some players of the wildly popular word-guessing game start with whichever five-letter word first comes into their head. Others make tactical use of words containing common letters.

A small number of Wordle fans, however, have found another route to the answers – but are respecting the game’s “code of silence” by keeping the solutions private. Two computing experts who met at the University of Cambridge are among those to have discovered that the code underpinning the Wordle webpage contains each day’s solution, from “cigar” on June 19, 2021, to … well, that would be telling.

Dr Ramsey Faragher, a bye-fellow at Queen’s College and the founder of a tech company that specialises in smartphone positioning, tipped off his friend and former student Dr Sam Gregson, a former Large Hadron Collider physicist who is now a comedian and science commentator. As Dr Faragher predicted, Dr Gregson found the list of answers within the webpage’s source code.

“It certainly seems to be the case that there is an informal code of silence and a great deal of community spirit in the Wordle community,” Dr Gregson said. “Few seem to want to share or broadcast the readily available answers and those that do are met with gentle hostility or eye-rolling silence.”

Answers will not be revealed

Dr Gregson, 38, is using the information he and Dr Faragher, 39, have unearthed to craft an analysis of optimal Wordle strategy for his video channel, The Bad Boy of Science. Bad boy though he may be, Dr Gregson does not wish to crimp others’ enjoyment of the game. As such, he is cagey about publicly revealing the list of answers.

Appropriately for a game whose integrity is so highly valued, Wordle has innocent origins. Designed by Welsh-born software engineer Josh Wardle to entertain his puzzle-loving wife, Wordle was a simple online game whose players – the two of them – sought to guess a five-letter word in six attempts.

Then it went viral. Having had 90 players on November 1 last year, Wordle reached 2.7 million last week. Along the way, many of its players began to use mathematics to devise the most effective opening plays possible, with little-known words such as “roate” – an obsolete variant of “rote” – catapulted back into the English lexicon.

Facebook users spoil the fun

The informal omerta has not been universally observed. Jill Sutcliffe, a moderator on a large Facebook group of Wordle aficionados, says that upcoming answers have been posted on two occasions. Mrs Sutcliffe, a retired courts worker who lives in Fife, swiftly deleted the offending posts, saving the group’s 9000-odd members from having their daily Wordle session ruined. “It was awful,” she said, “because once you see the answers you can’t unsee them. But mostly people are respectful.”

The Telegraph has verified the list but will not spoil the game by revealing the answers. Should you doubt Drs Gregson and Faragher, though, check Sunday’s answer against an unusual five-letter word used earlier in this article.

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