Why today’s Wordle answer is so hard, according to the experts

Another day, another irksome Wordle conundrum. Like puzzle #265 before it, today’s Wordle is proving a particularly tricky beast for players around the world to reckon with – but not for the same reasons as its predecessor. 

Once again, TechRadar spoke to Dr Matthew Voice, an Assistant Professor in Applied Linguistics at the UK’s University of Warwick, to find out the granular details behind puzzle #270. We also heard from Shaun Savage, Editor in Chief at Try Hard Games Guides, for more on today’s troublesome term.

Naturally, we’ll be divulging the solution to today’s puzzle below, so turn back now if you’re committed to weathering the latest Wordle alone. 

So, ladies and gents, today’s Wordle answer is CATER. Granted, that’s decidedly more obscure than WATCH (puzzle #265), but it’s not exactly a term that demands you dig out a dictionary. 

Dr Voice explained to us last week that WATCH was a prime example of an n-gram, i.e. a group of letters of a length (n) that commonly cluster together. Again, CATER is an n-gram with a length of four letters – a quadrigram – which presents similar problems, on top of some extra word-specific difficulty. 

It's all in the morphology

“Looking back at Project Gutenberg's list of common n-grams,” Dr Voice tells us, “you can really see why getting some of today's letters in place isn't necessarily narrowing down the possibilities. ER is the fourth most common combination of any two letters in the whole of the English language, it seems, and TER the twelfth most common combination of three.”

“That said,” he adds, “I also think it's interesting to think about why 'cater' might not seem like an immediately obvious option to everyone who's got the point of finding _ATER. The answer to this might be to do with our expectations about morphology – the way we combine together different parts of language to make new words.”

Morphology. Right, we’re following. 

“ER is a very common bigram partly because '-er' is a highly productive suffix in English. It can be added to the end of most verbs in order to make a new noun, usually to describe someone or something doing the original verb. So 'report' becomes 'reporter' and 'play' becomes 'player', for example.”

“So we might associate an '-er' ending with nouns in particular. The data for the eleven options to fill the last slot in _ATER bears this out, too: nine of them are nouns, with one adjective ('later') and our solution, 'cater', being the only verb in the group. Players caught thinking of 'verb + -er' words might have overlooked this exception.”

So there you have it, Wordle-ers. CATER is tricking you with its sneaky bigram, which is subsequently encouraging the mind to think of 'verb + -er’ words (which, of course, does not account for the existence of ‘cater’). 

This is what we learned from Shaun Savage, Editor in Chief at Try Hard Games Guides, on the matter of puzzle #270’s internet infamy: “While we definitely see more traffic on days where people need help figuring out what possible words the answer could be – with _ATER, people have a few words that likely came to mind! – we have seen the answer post trend higher in these instances, same with 'watch' and 'dodge'.”

“This past week's words haven't been too offbeat,” Savage adds. “We have seen steady traffic, but no mega surges like we have for a few words (‘vivid’ comes to mind) that are harder to figure out. The situation with _ATER, though, is that there are lots of possibilities, and all of them fit without specifically trying to eliminate more consonants.”

Well then, that's two tricky terms in the space of five days. Come on, Wordle, give us and our broken streaks a break…

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Wordle hard mode adds an extra layer of challenge – here’s how to turn it on

Wordle is the word-a-day game taking the internet by storm. The popular word game present a daily challenge in which you must guess a five-letter word in six guesses or fewer. Wordle will then keep track of your stats, including win rate percentage, and a breakdown of the number of tries it takes you to reach the correct answer each day.

While Wordle's strict ruleset already makes the game quite challenging, there's actually a secondary mode tucked away in the options menu – for those wanting an even greater challenge. It doesn't change up the words you'll be guessing in any way, but it does impose further restrictions that could make your Wordle experience that much tougher.

Under normal rules, Wordle will notify you of letters you've guessed correctly. A green tile indicates you've got the right letter in the right place, while a yellow tile tells you that letter is in the word, albeit in a different spot. Meanwhile, a greyed out tile tells the player that letter isn't in the word at all.

That's also the case on hard mode, but there's one big difference. With hard mode, you're forced into using all the yellow tiled letters you've accrued so far. So for example, if you've guessed the word to be “CHIMP” and “I” and “M” flag as yellow, you'll be required to use those letters in your next guess.

To many of you, this may not seem like much of a restriction. After all, using the correct letters gives you a better chance of guessing the word, right? Well, yes and no. The more yellow letters you have in your guess, the fewer new letters you'll be able to play with on subsequent guesses, and this can be especially strict when you consider you only have six guesses to begin with.

Wordle on iOS

(Image credit: Wordle)

How to access Wordle hard mode

Activating hard mode on Wordle is simple enough, and just requires you to head into the site's settings menu. You can do so by tapping or clicking the cog icon in the top right of the screen. It's just right of the title, and next to the option to view your overall statistics.

Once you're in the settings menu, the very first option, “Hard Mode,” is what you're after. By turning that on, you'll now be required to use all correct letters you've uncovered in subsequent guesses.

The settings menu also contains options for a dark theme and a color blind mode for those who may need it. The former might be a good option to reduce eye strain if you tend to spend a lot of time thinking about each guess.

And that's it! With hard mode activated, you can back out of the settings menu and experience your daily Wordle challenge with added restrictions. Do note that there doesn't seem to be any added benefit to playing on hard mode, and it can be turned off at any time by simply re-entering the settings menu and tapping the option once again, reverting Wordle to its default rules.

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Tape could replace hard drives – in some cases – thanks to this breakthrough

Fujitsu has announced a new technology called Virtual Integrated File System that it says could help magnetic tape storage compete with hard disk drives as a low-cost, large capacity storage alternative.

With the feud between Sony and Fujitsu around LTO resolved late last year, all eyes are now on LTO-9, which is expected to be delivered in 2020. This iteration will deliver capacities up to 26.1TB (uncompressed) and raw throughput of up to 708MB/sec.

That’s a higher capacity than the largest hard drive on the market (currently 20TB) –  also faster and likely cheaper too. Add in on-the-fly compression capabilities and, suddenly, it's all looking rosy for the venerable tape. 

Hacking the file system

Fujitsu's Virtual Integrated File System (VIFS) allows “multiple tape cartridges to be consolidated into one”, which means users can access data without worrying about individual tape cartridges.

It sounds a little like RAID but for tapes, which means that you'll likely need multiple tape drives or a tape library. This limits the product to enterprise and large businesses, where storage demands are usually measured in Petabytes and Exabytes.

The Japanese company claims to have improved the read speeds by more than fourfold in one trial run, while another test yielded a speed improvement of nearly 2X.

“This technology enables high-speed tape access performance, such as random reads and writes of various sizes occurring in archive applications, and is expected to provide a cost-effective data archiving infrastructure for long-term archiving of large volumes of data," Fujitsu added.

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