Adieu to ADIEU: Why I’m Dumping the Only Wordle Starter Word I’ve Ever Used

Goodbye to you, ADIEU. Or should I say good riddance. 

I started playing Wordle back in December, even before software developer Josh Wardle sold the online word-guessing game to The New York Times for big bucks. And, man, was I cocky. I’m an English major! I know words! What’s that famous Ralph Wiggum line? “Me fail English? That’s unpossible!”

So I immediately seized on the trend of using ADIEU as a first-play word because just look at it! Four vowels, all crammed into your very first guess! Here was my thinking: If I get all the vowel-guessing out of the way, then I can at least start jigsaw-puzzling the middle parts of the word, and then just cherry-pick the right consonants on my way to an easy win.

What was I even thinking?

There are only five vowels but 21 consonants. (Yes, “y” can go either way.) Even if ADIEU reveals that the word has an A and an E in it or whatever, I’m left to limp my way through the rest of my guesses, with only one consonant, D, eliminated. It’s like the whole damn dictionary remains in play.

But if I knew that the word had some popular consonants, say, a T and an R, I might be on my way to STARE. Or TRACE. Or CHART. I probably wouldn’t get the answer on my second try. But if I threw some more consonants at the wall, like wet spaghetti, some of them might stick.

So now I’m on a consonant kick. As we know from Wheel of Fortune, the letters RSTLNE are excruciatingly popular, with Slate reporting that those six letters represent approximately 45 percent of all letters in a standard English text. (Just think “rest line” and you’ll remember all of them, with an also-popular “I” thrown in.)

Want a few more letters to play with? Reader’s Digest claims that the 10 most common letters in the Oxford English Dictionary are EARIOTNSLC. Some people don’t like to use an S at all, because you can save that for when you really need to guess a plural, but I hardly ever use that strategy.

So here’s a dozen possible starter words, in no particular order, that lean heavily on those popularity lists. I’m going to put them here so I remember them the next time I panic and am tempted to start with ADIEU.

LEARN
NAILS
ORATE
RAISE
RENAL
SNARE
SAINT
STEAL
SNAIL
TRIAL
TALON
TRAIN

If I discover that this strategy sucks, I’ll rip up the plan, start over and let you know. Wish me luck.

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