Like everyone else on planet Earth, I’ve been poking at all manner of Wordle-likes for the last few weeks, yet I’ve found all but one to lack the stickiness of the original. The exception? Nerdle, a game in which you have to guess the basic arithmetic that hides behind those blanks.
At first glance, it looks like it should be impossible. Where Wordle’s core conceit is relatively simple—a five-letter word—Nerdle wants you to discern an eight-character mathematical equation in just six guesses. Surely that’s impossible? While you only have the numbers 0 through 9 to enter, rather than 26 letters of the alphabet, you’ve also got the operators +, -, *, /, and = to stick in there, plus of course an improbable array of combinations of single digits to create larger numbers.
A solution might be “3 + 1 0 / 5 = 5" or “9 7 * 3 = 2 9 1". And yet, as implausible as it seems that these should be guessable in so few tries, over a couple of weeks I’ve yet to fail. This is not a reflection of my genius, but rather it’s a format that simply works. Of all the clonedles I’ve played, it’s really the only one that’s clicked as hard as Wordle, if not harder.
Much like any seasoned Wordle veteran, you’ll quickly start honing your ideal opening sum. Get in as many numbers as you can, plus a couple of operators. A little logic will guide your guessing from there.
Nerdle always follows the order of operations, but beyond that, no specialist mathematic knowledge is required. The only real hitch is that it does require numbers be listed in the arbitrary order of the correct solution. By which I mean, “2 + 3" and “3 + 2" obviously give the same answer, but only the pre-prescribed arrangement of the determined solution is “correct.” However, for a few players the game is currently offering an “allow commutative answers” option to test a way to have the game work around this.
So while my brainer chums are enjoying Globle and Chessle, it’s Nerdle that’s won me over. It’s the creation of a British data scientist, Richard Mann, and his teenage daughter and son, and is apparently already being used by math teachers in classrooms around the world. All said, it’s probably more educational than playing hangman on the chalkboard.