Ph.D. student writes computer program that claims it can find the ‘perfect’ first word in Wordle: ‘This is awesome’

Ph.D. student writes computer program that claims it can find the ‘perfect’ first word in Wordle: ‘This is awesome’

What’s the actual best starting word in Wordle?

If you’ve been on Twitter, TikTok or basically anywhere on planet earth in the past month, it’s likely you’ve heard someone pose the question.

Wordle, the word-guessing game that asks players to figure out a new five-letter word each day, has exploded in popularity since the start of 2021. In early November, the game had less than 90 regular users. Now, it has millions of loyal players. So many, in fact, that The New York Times recently bought the game at a reported seven-figure price tag.

And as Wordle gets more and more popular, so do the theories about the supposed best way to play it. There are now full-on study guides for finding strong opening guesses. And on TikTok, experts are weighing in — from professors to linguists to computer programmers and more.

However, one user, a Ph.D. student named Zeb (@tokbyzeb), claims to have cracked the code. It’s all thanks to a program they designed one day while having an “existential crisis” and procrastinating Ph.D. work.

Zeb’s video is a response to another viral clip posted by the Canadian linguist behind the popular account @linguisticdiscovery. In his clip, @linguisticdiscovery claimed that players should start by guessing “irate,” as it uses the most letters that appear the most frequently in English.

However, Zeb claims that this view is too limited. In their video, the TikToker says that @linguisticdiscovery’s approach is “heuristic,” meaning it provides a workable but not entirely optimal solution for guessing the correct word.

The issue, Zeb claims, is that finding the best first guess is really about thinking of how many words that guess will eliminate — because, technically, eliminating the most potential answers with your first guess gives you the best chance of winning the game.

Zeb’s program, therefore, rates each opening word by how many words it eliminates. Their top word, which they claim leaves the lowest number of available words, is “roate.”

As Zeb goes on to show, “roate” leaves players with slightly over 60 possible guesses. Meanwhile, “irate,” which ranked No. 6 on the list, leaves closer to 64 possible guesses.

TikTokers were thoroughly impressed by Zeb’s program, and many thanked them for the help.

“This is amazing,” one wrote.

“Yes, thank you!” another added. “I was just thinking how all these [other] videos are good in theory but don’t actually apply much to the game after the first word.”

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Of course, Zeb’s theory is just one of many to go viral on the app. Users have made all kinds of claims about the best starting word in Wordle — from “irate” to “later” to even “farts.”

The difference, of course, is that Zeb’s program uses a pretty unique approach. And for those interested in how to apply their thinking even further, the TikToker posted a follow-up clip explaining how you can eliminate even more words by strategically combining your first two guesses.

Or, you can just do what this writer does and guess “tears” every time.

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