Why Connections from The New York Times Is the Best Casual Daily Game Since WordleGames Features The New York Times
Maybe it just comes with age, but I love a routine. My morning coffee, Monday night soccer matches, Friday evenings at the brewery with friends or playing my quick daily games. I started playing a once-a-day casual card game called Miracle Merchant back in 2018 and have rarely missed a day since. I’m one of those people who still plays the daily Wordle (just waiting for the word to be “Paste.”). And now have a new favorite daily game, called Connections.
Building on the strength of the crossword puzzle of record that’s appeared in the newspaper since 1942, the New York Times app has become a destination for these kinds of daily games—especially since the paper bought Wordle from creator Josh Wardle last year. I’ll occasionally tackle the crossword or try to get a “Genius” rating (or at least one of the panagrams) on Spelling Bee. But, in addition to the eight established daily games on the app, the Gray Lady also tests out new games via the NYT website. Those beta games don’t always make the cut—my wife, who prefers number games to words, is still sore that they recently got rid of the math-focused Digits.
Connections is their latest daily puzzle, and I’m hooked. The game starts with a set of 16 words or phrases, and the goal is to find commonalities between four sets of four. They can be figures from Greek mythology (Nike, Paris, Hercules and Apollo) or synonyms for “scam” (con, fast one, hustle and racket). The challenge is that for many of the sets, there are five or more that could fit the description, and you might have to narrow the field by getting other sets first. To win, you have to get them all without making four mistakes, which is pretty easy to do. But there’s more satisfaction in getting them all on the first try.
Like Wordle, Connections is generally a much shorter time commitment than, say, exhausting nearly all the possibilities of the Spelling Bee letters or finishing a Friday crossword. Only one puzzle in the last couple of weeks got the better of me—I was fooled by the presence of X and Mastodon into thinking that one of the categories was “social-media companies” instead of, respectively, “kisses” and “extinct animals.” But that kind of trickery is what makes it fun.
The game’s editor Wyna Liu recently wrote in a column for the paper, “I thought back on the Games magazine anthologies that my mom got for me when I was a child.” I loved those same puzzles growing up, and the playfulness and creative thinking come through here. You’re challenged to consider all the many definitions of a word like “wave” and how it might relate to others in the mix. Here’s hoping that this beta game survives its trial run.
Josh Jackson is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Paste Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @JoshJackson.