Nerdle is Wordle for people who prefer numbers to letters


Wordle is a puzzle game in which your vocabulary and ability to spell allow you to drill towards the solution. It’s surprising how well the same design still works when the letters are replaced by numbers, and you’re instead relying on your ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide.

That’s what you’re doing in Nerdle, which is Wordle for maths fans.

The same genre principles remain: you have six guesses to solve one puzzle per day. Make a guess and the numbers and symbols that don’t feature in today’s solution are marked black, those that are in the wrong place are marked red, and those in the correct place are green.

Rather than being present in the game’s dictionary, each guess you make in Nerdle must be a valid sum. 5+5+5+55 would fill the 8-square long entry field, but would be rejected because it lacks an equals sign. 5+5+5=55 would fail because the numbers don’t add up correctly.

The possibility space initially seemed like it would be too large for successful guesses to be possible, but far from it. Rather than dealing with the alphabet’s 26 letters, you’re dealing with just 0-9 and the +-*/= symbols. A sum like 23+45=68 includes more than half of the possible characters and will likely present you with at least a few confirmed numbers.

After that, the rules of simple arithmetic allow you to narrow the possibilities just like the spelling of words does. Whether the equals sign is in the second-to-last or third-to-last position lets you know whether your sum adds up to double digits, for example, and greatly impacts the likely numbers and layout that comes before that equals sign.

My one frustration with Nerdle is that, as the instructions say, order matters. “If the answer we’re looking for is 10+20=30, then 20+10=30 isn’t close enough.” I don’t want the solutions to be order agonstic, but I would like there to at least be a logic to their order, one that prevents the awkwardness of arbitrarily shuffling correct elements around until you stumble across the answer.

I’m more of a word lover than number fancier anyway, so Nerdle isn’t a firm part of my daily routine like Wordle, Worldle and Semantle, but it’s still great. You can play it for free in your browser now.

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