Connections

The New York Times doesn’t add new games to its stable, alongside the daily crossword puzzle and Wordle, often. Spelling Bee is one I enjoy a fair bit when I think to look at it.

A newcomer to their game collection that’s in beta testing that seems interesting is Connections. It’s not a word game, at least not in the sense that a game involving manipulating letters is. It’s more a game of categorizing.

The puzzle from June 12, 2023

You’ve given a field of sixteen cells in a grid, each containing a word. The words relate to each other in four distinct groups, each containing four of the words. They’re all scrambled up so their positions in the grid don’t relate to their connections. To solve the puzzle, you must figure out which words connect with each other.

To help you, if you manage to pick four words that belong together and click the Submit button, the answer will be confirmed and the category identified, and the words will be removed from the grid, leaving only the words yet to be sorted, making it easier to deduce the remaining categories.

In the first puzzle I did, the words, mixed up here to preserve for you the opportunity to do it yourself, were:

OKLAHOMA HIP PACKER THEM

COWBOY ELBOW SPIRAL WRIST

AIRPLANE RAVEN MOTHER SHOULDER

SHELL KNEE BOWTIE BRONCO

There is only one solution to each puzzle, where every category has four members. Following is the solution and one way to arrive at it, so skip past this paragraph if you don’t want to be spoiled:

NFL players: BRONCO, COWBOY, PACKER, RAVEN

Pasta shapes: BOWTIE, ELBOW, SHELL, SPIRAL

Joints: HIP, KNEE, SHOULDER, WRIST

Movies with “!”: AIRPLANE, OKLAHOMA, MOTHER, THEM

The categories seem to be chosen so that some of the words could possibly be part of more than one, so you’ll have to use the fact that each only contains four to narrow them down. In this case, ELBOW is a joint and a pasta shape, but there are four other joints and only three pastas. If you don’t categorize clearly, you might figure that OKLAHOMA might fit in with the NFL players, but Oklahoma doesn’t have an NFL team, and anyway the category is composed of singular versions of sports team names that are plurals, and OKLAHOMA doesn’t fit that pattern. The hardest category here is Movies With “!”, which is very hard to get without eliminating the other categories first. This is what makes it a proper puzzle: solving one part of it helps narrow down the rest. If you got the other three categories correct first, the remaining one is handed to you. I got this one by first picking out the NFL players, which is pretty simple as there aren’t many ways to use the word BRONCO; then the pasta shapes; then from what remained the joints; then I was left with the movie titles with exclamation points.

If it’s like the others, the NYT will be making a new Connections puzzle available daily. I look forward to trying out more of them.

Connections (New York Times link, a subscription is probably necessary to play, alas)