(NEXSTAR) – Do you know these friends of yours? The ones who brag about theirs wordle Results on Twitter? They probably don’t give you an accurate representation of the game’s difficulty.
Wordle, the online game in which players must find a hidden five-letter word in six tries or less, has become a real phenomenon among wordsmiths and puzzle lovers worldwide. The game’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent weeks after Wordle creator Josh Wardle (yes, Wardle) added a feature that allowed users to easily share their results via a color-coded grid without revealing the answer.
Of course, players have been posting their grids to social media platforms like Twitter, and used them to share their love of Wordle with the online community – and to frivolously brag about their puzzle-solving skills.
One player, Kevin O’Connor, has been keeping an eye on these grids for several days. On his Twitter account @WordleStats, O’Connor counts the number of users who post their results on Twitter, but he also calculates the percentage of Twitter users who claim to have solved the puzzle on the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth try.
Based on his results, O’Connor found that approximately 1% of players who post their results on Twitter guess the correct word on the first try, and between 3% and 9% on the second try. The percentages for the third, fourth, and fifth picks are more different, although most players claim they succeed on the fourth or fifth. Very few (between 1% and 4%) admit not having found an answer at all.
However, it’s fair to say that the majority of people who play Wordle don’t post their scores on Twitter. And those that do are certainly less likely to publicize their mistakes.
That’s not to say that O’Connor’s statistics aren’t credible; Wardle himself has retweeted one of O’Connor’s contributions. But these percentages – based solely on data from Twitter – may not paint an accurate picture of the average Wordle player.
“It’s all just pulled from Twitter so I’m certainly betting with a lot of people hide their shame‘ O’Connor recently told a follower.
So what are the actual odds of a correct first guess?
In a recent interview with BBC radio 4, Wardle revealed that he programmed the game to accept more than 12,000 possible guesses (based on the number of five-letter words in the dictionary), but only about 2,500 of those words are included in the game’s pool of randomized acceptable solutions . More specifically, according to online analysts, the game’s source code indicates that there are 12,972 acceptable guesses but only 2,315 solutions.
“If your strategy is to randomly guess one of the 12,972 words, your odds of getting it right are only 1 in 12,972, which is less than one-hundredth of a percent,” explained Aaron Berger, Ph.D. Mathematics student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and occasional Wordle player.
But Berger said the average player’s odds might be a bit better, presumably because the pool of acceptable answers includes many of the most common five-letter words in English (and therefore many of the most common guesses). Even if a player knew all 2,315 words in the answer pool in advance, they would still have a 1 in 2,315 chance – less than a twentieth of a percent – of solving the Word of the Day on the first try. The odds get slightly better with each subsequent game (e.g. 1 in 2,314; 1 in 2,313), provided the correct answer is not a repeat of the previous days’ solutions.
With that in mind, it’s highly unlikely that 1% of all players will guess correctly on the first try – and far more likely that some people will cheat.
For starters, Berger says it’s nearly impossible statistically, “even considering that people are more likely to post on Twitter if they’re lucky.” But there’s another good reason to think that Wordle users overdo their Twitter influence skills.
“If you go to Twitter and search something like ‘Wordle 207 1/6,’ you can see all the posts claiming to get it the first time,” Berger noted. “And many of them openly admit to cheating!”
In other words, you can’t trust everything you see on Twitter, no matter how cute those little wordle grids might seem.