To explain how this works, let’s look at a simpler game. In 20 Questions, you can ask up to 20 yes/no questions to try and guess an object or person. Since you only have 20 guesses, you need to maximise the amount of information you get from each guess. If you are guessing a person, you could ask ‘Are they a 19th Century Russian author?’ and if the answer is ‘yes’ you will have gained a very useful clue. But if the answer is ‘no’ then it hasn’t narrowed the field much.
A much better question would be ‘Are they female?’, because whether the answer is yes or no, you have roughly halved the number of possibilities left. A question that divides the possibilities into equal-sized groups contains more information than one where the groups are very uneven.
In Wordle, words that contain lots of common letters contain more information. Even if the letter isn’t in the word, it is more useful to know that the word does not contain E or S, than to be told that it doesn’t have a Q.
The YouTube channel 3blue1brown wrote some Python code to search through all the valid five-letter words and found that SALET contains the most information for the starting guess. Since this is not one of the possible answers though, you may prefer to lead with CRATE, which is nearly as good and offers the extra hope of a lucky win on the first try.
Asked by: Harriet Matthews
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