Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) say they have found the optimal word with which one should start Wordle, a word game which has become immensely popular all over the world ever since it was launched in October 2021. The New York Times Company acquired Wordle in January 2022. Software engineer Josh Wordle from Brooklyn, New York, had created the daily word game for his partner, Palak Shah, who enjoys playing word games. Wordle is a guessing game that roughly follows the rules of the guess-the-colour game Mastermind.
In Wordle, one needs to guess a five-letter word, after which the computer will tell which letters have been correctly guessed, and whether they are in the right place. The player gets six tries to figure out the word.
The Optimal Word, According To MIT
According to MIT researchers, the best word to start with when playing Wordle is ‘SALET’. This is a light, round helmet extending over the back of the neck. It replaced the basinet, a close-fitting steel helmet, in the 15th century.
The MIT study titled ‘An Exact and Interpretable Solution to Wordle’ states that the best starting word is SALET, and that the researchers’ algorithm finds all the hidden words in at most five guesses. Also, the average number of guesses starting with SALET is 3.421.
According to an article published by CNBC, Alex Paskov, one of the authors on the peer-reviewed paper, said that if one starts with the word SALET, and plays intelligently, they can assuredly win the game within five guesses, and will not even need the last guess.
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What Words Does WordleBot Recommend To Start Wordle With?
The researchers implemented their algorithm in wordleopt.com. The New York Times have made a Wordle assistant called WordleBot, which offers a revamped approach to solving the game and analysing one’s performance. The AI (Artificial Intelligence) recommends CRANE, CRATE, CARTE, SLATE, SLANT, SOARE, and ROATE as the strongest openings.
Quoting Paskov, the CNBC article says the issue is that the New York Times’ analysis was not done during MIT’s computational capabilities.
Paskov said what the New York Times actually did to determine CRANE is they focused on a small subset of possibilities that they can solve on a basic computer. He explained that at MIT, a lot of resources are available, including very fast computers, and very big supercomputers. Therefore, the MIT researchers were not too afraid to face this bigger, more difficult task of “exhaustively enumerating every possibility”, he told CNBC.
Paskov explained that the approach made by him and Professor Dimitris Bertsimas was “much more computationally scary”. The duo laid out all possible guesses each turn and used an AI system to analyse it from there.
According to the article, Paskov also said that if one can imagine a web of all possibilities that can happen in the game, what guesses they can make, and what happens after those guesses, that is an unimaginably large set of possibilities.
Therefore, to determine how to best play the game, the system starts cutting away very intelligently and aggressively in the web of possibilities, until at the end of the day, one is left with just the best thing to do in every situation, Paskov explained.
Why Is SALET An Optimal Guess?
Bill Gates recently wrote in a blog post he likes to start Wordle with any of the words ‘AUDIO’, ‘OUNCE’, or ‘ADIEU’.
For a long time, WordleBot believed that the best word to start Wordle with is ‘CRANE’. Then, the AI started recommending ‘SLATE’ as the optimal word. Now, WordleBot once again suggests ‘CRANE’ as the best starting word for Wordle.
ADIEU and AUDIO are fan favourites . However, SALET is a more optimal guess than these words because, on average, it narrows down the possible answers in Wordle’s word bank the fastest, the article states.
Paskov said that SALET gives one the most possible information as a first guess, and will ensure they win the game in fewer average guesses than AUDIO.
According to the study, AUDIO, which contains four vowels, reveals only an average of 1.320 coloured tiles in the first move.
Moreover, SALET performed one per cent better than the word ‘SLATE’ in Paskov’s testing.