Today’s Wordle is the most difficult we’ve had so far in 2024, but that doesn’t come close to describing how tough it is. ‘Wordle 1,037 X’ is trending high on Twitter, which is always a sign of a hard puzzle, and some 13% of players have failed it so far.

Solving it in six guesses or fewer and preserving your Wordle streak will be a challenge, that’s for sure. But there are ways to play it to avoid heartache (or the Wordle equivalent; this is only a game, after all). These strategies might be too late to help you now, but they could save you next time a game like this crops up. And it will.

To explain what they are, I’ll need to include SPOILERS FOR TODAY’S WORDLE, GAME #1,037, ON SUNDAY, 21 APRIL 2024. So please don’t read on if you haven’t already completed it. Just bear in mind that you might want some hints for Wordle today before doing so.

How hard?

OK, so let’s talk about today’s Wordle word and exactly how hard it was.

The answer to game #1,037, assuming you’ve played by now **FINAL SPOILER ALERT**, is JOLLY – and it really is causing a lot of problems.

The way I assess the difficulty of each Wordle is to consult WordleBot, the New York Times’ AI-powered helper tool. Each day, WordleBot analyzes the games of everyone who plays and reports an average score for it. And today, it says people are solving it in an average of 5.4 guesses. That’s based on a random sample of 1,778,346 Wordlers who have so far played it – so it’s a pretty sizeable survey.

I’ve recorded the WordleBot average scores every day since the tool launched in April 2022, meaning I now have a list of 749 games ranked by difficulty. By that measure, JOLLY is the hardest Wordle so far in 2024, comfortably beating the previous holder of that title, PIPER, which was a 5.2 game in February.

But that only tells half of the tale, because JOLLY is in fact the toughest Wordle since June 2023, and is actually the equal fourth worst ever. Only PARER (average score 6.3), MUMMY (5.8) and JAZZY (5.5) have been harder, while FOYER, RIPER and JOKER all had the same 5.4 average.

Unsurprisingly, many players are struggling. Some 233,791 Wordlers have failed to solve it as of the time of writing, which is 13% of the total. That’s a super-high failure rate.

Turn to Twitter and you can see the reaction, with scores of players posting their games and bemoaning their luck:

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A quick glance is enough to see one of the main causes of this glut of failures – namely the too-many-answers problem. But it’s far from the only one.

Too many answers

Wordle answer to game #1037 on a yellow background

(Image credit: New York Times)

Lots of the hardest Wordles ever share a common theme, namely too-many-answers. In other words, the solution is one that could have been another word if you just changed one (or sometimes two) letters.

There are several of these traps, for instance -IGHT, -OUND and -ATCH. The first of those has nine possible solutions: WIGHT, EIGHT, RIGHT, TIGHT, LIGHT, FIGHT, SIGHT, MIGHT and NIGHT. The second has eight – WOUND, ROUND, POUND, HOUND, FOUND, SOUND, MOUND and BOUND – while the third has seven (WATCH, PATCH, LATCH, HATCH, MATCH, BATCH and CATCH).

The -OLLY trap, meanwhile, is on a par with -ATCH, because it has seven definite answers: LOLLY, JOLLY, HOLLY, GOLLY, FOLLY, MOLLY and DOLLY. It’s up there with the worst possible formats.

These kind of games are a nightmare if you play on hard mode, where you can easily get stuck with four green letters and be forced to randomly guess letters in the search of the right one. So my first tip is simply not to play on hard mode! Or, if you do, you need to bear in mind that this kind of thing might happen, and guard against it from the very start,

Worse still here, the eventual answer was JOLLY, which begins with the least common letter in the game. This is something I prove in my analysis of every Wordle answer; J only appears in 27 of Wordle’s 2,309 original solutions, and it’s therefore not a letter most people use very often.

Add to that the fact that JOLLY also includes a repeated letter – which itself is a less common occurrence than getting five individual letters – and you have a game that’s set up to make life difficult for you.

How to play one of these games and win

The key to beating a game like JOLLY – unless you play on hard mode – is to narrow down your options as early as possible.

What this means is not chasing a high score, because that way lies disaster. Let’s say you established this was an -OLLY word as early as the third guess, which isn’t unreasonable depending on what your start word was. In that scenario, it can be tempting to guess common words such as FOLLY, say, or HOLLY, in the search of that average-beating 4/6 score.

DO NO DO THIS.

Instead, the second you realize that there are more answers left than guesses, the only way to consistently beat Wordle is to find a narrowing-down word that eliminates as many options as possible. In my example above, it was MIGHT – because that ruled out MOLLY, GOLLY and HOLLY in a single guess, leaving me with only JOLLY left to play next time.

This goes against many people’s instincts, because it involves leaving out green letters, which just feels wrong. But it’s what WordleBot does, and the ‘bot is far smarter than you or I.

In some cases, you might even need to play two such words, and in fact I kind of did that; LOWLY, which I played the guess before MIGHT, was chosen partly to rule out LOLLY as an option. The important thing is to establish what all of the options are, draw up a list of all those possible letters (in this case F, H, G, L, M, D and J), then think of words that contain as many of them as possible.

You could consider this an overly cautious and maybe cowardly way to play Wordle, but if you value your streak then it’s the only approach that makes sense.

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