If you’re looking for the Connections answer for Saturday, September 16, 2023, read on—I’ll share some clues, tips, and strategies, and finally the solutions to all four categories. Beware, there are spoilers below for September 16, NYT Connections #97! Scroll to the end if you want some hints (and then the answer) to today’s Connections game.
By the way, if you want an easy way to come back to our Connections hints every day, bookmark this page. You can also find our past hints there as well, in case you want to know what you missed in a previous puzzle.
How to play Connections
Table of Contents
I have a full guide to playing Connections, but here’s a refresher on the rules:
First, find the Connections game either on the New York Times website or in their Crossword app. You’ll see a game board with 16 tiles, each with one word or phrase. Your job is to select a group of four tiles that have something in common. Often they are all the same type of thing (for example: RAIN, SLEET, HAIL, and SNOW are all types of wet weather) but sometimes there is wordplay involved (for example, BUCKET, GUEST, TOP TEN, and WISH are all types of lists: bucket list, guest list, and so on).
Select four items and hit the Submit button. If you guessed correctly, the category and color will be revealed. (Yellow is easiest, followed by green, then blue, then purple.) If your guess was incorrect, you’ll get a chance to try again.
You win when you’ve correctly identified all four groups. But if you make four mistakes before you finish, the game ends and the answers are revealed.
How to win Connections
The most important thing to know to win Connections is that the groupings are designed to be tricky. Expect to see overlapping groups. For example, one puzzle seemed to include six breakfast foods: BACON, EGG, PANCAKE, OMELET, WAFFLE, and CEREAL. But BACON turned out to be part of a group of painters along with CLOSE, MUNCH, and WHISTLER, and EGG was in a group of things that come by the dozen (along with JUROR, ROSE, and MONTH). So don’t hit “submit” until you’ve confirmed that your group of four contains only those four things.
If you’re stuck, another strategy is to look at the words that seem to have no connection to the others. If all that comes to mind when you see WHISTLER is the painting nicknamed “Whistler’s Mother,” you might be on to something. When I solved that one, I ended up googling whether there was a painter named Close, because Close didn’t fit any of the obvious themes, either.
Another way to win when you’re stuck is, obviously, to read a few helpful hints. Below, I’ll give you some oblique hints at today’s Connections answers. And further down the page, I’ll reveal the themes and the answers. Scroll slowly and take just the hints you need!
Does today’s Connections game require any special knowledge?
There are some characters from a fairly well-known comic strip, and references to a song, a marketing slogan, and an old TV show. Nothing too obscure.
Here are some definitions of possibly lesser-known words in today’s puzzle:
- A GAMBIT is a risky strategy, and can describe a collection of chess moves in which you sacrifice a piece, such as a pawn, to gain some other advantage. The word’s origins lie in a wrestling move in which you would trip the other person. GAMBIT is also the name of the card-playing X-man.
- WOODSTOCK was a music festival held in upstate New York in 1969 at which Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and other big names performed. It’s also the name of the town in New York where the festival was originally supposed to be held. WOODSTOCK is also the name of the little yellow bird that is Snoopy’s friend in the Peanuts comics.
- MATE can refer to an animal’s breeding partner, a British person’s friend, or the suffix indicating membership of a shared group in ROOMMATE or CLASSMATE. It’s also a thing you say when you win a chess game (“check” means the king is in danger; “mate” means you’ve as good as killed him), and with an optional accent on the e, it can refer to the caffeinated drink made from a plant in the holly family, yerba maté.
Hints for the themes in today’s Connections puzzle
Here are some spoiler-free hints for the groupings in today’s Connections:
- Yellow category – You know these characters from your childhood.
- Green category – These relate to a game.
- Blue category – These relate to another set of childhood characters.
- Purple category – You’ll love these.
Does today’s Connections game involve any wordplay?
Yes, there’s a fill-in-the-blank category.
Ready to hear the answers? Keep scrolling if you want a little more help.
BEWARE: Spoilers follow for today’s Connections puzzle!
We’re about to give away some of the answers. Scroll slowly if you don’t want the whole thing spoiled. (The full solution is a bit further down.)
What are the ambiguous words in today’s Connections?
- A PEPPERMINT PATTY is a flat, round candy—shaped like a small hamburger patty—covered in chocolate and containing a soft peppermint center. It’s also the name of a character in the Peanuts cartoon, which is more relevant here.
- A QUEEN can be the mother of a PRINCESS, but that’s not a pairing the game is looking for.
- LUCY can be any number of characters and real people, but I’ll let slip that this Lucy is one who is more famously known as Lucille.
What are the categories in today’s Connections?
- Yellow: FAIRY TALE FIGURES
- Green: CHESS TERMS
- Blue: “PEANUTS” CHARACTERS
- Purple: I LOVE ____
DOUBLE BEWARE: THE SOLUTION IS BELOW
Ready to learn the answers to today’s Connections puzzle? I give them all away below.
What are the yellow words in today’s Connections?
The yellow grouping is considered to be the most straightforward. The theme for today’s yellow group is FAIRY TALE FIGURES and the words are: GIANT, PRINCESS, WITCH, WOLF.
What are the green words in today’s Connections?
The green grouping is supposed to be the second-easiest. The theme for today’s green category is CHESS TERMS and the words are: BISHOP, MATE, GAMBIT, QUEEN.
What are the blue words in today’s Connections?
The blue grouping is the second-hardest. The theme for today’s blue category is “PEANUTS” CHARACTERS and the words are: CHARLIE, PEPPERMINT PATTY, PIGPEN, WOODSTOCK.
What are the purple words in today’s Connections?
The purple grouping is considered to be the hardest. The theme for today’s purple category is I LOVE ____ and the words are: LUCY, NEW YORK, ROCK ’N ROLL, YOU.
How I solved today’s Connections
I was stumped on this one for a good while. I saw the five Peanuts characters, but didn’t have a way to rule one out. With no other moves to make, I guessed at one of the likely combos—leaving LUCY out—and got a hit.
I saw chess words: QUEEN’s GAMBIT, MATE, and BISHOP. I saw NEW YORK and GIANTS, but had already ruled out WOODSTOCK as a partner for the state. Maybe GIANT, PRINCESS, and WOLF were part of a fairy tale lineup. QUEEN plays ROCK ’N ROLL. I saw X-Men characters in GAMBIT and WOLFerine. (Not quite, but close.)
I went with fairy tale characters next, figuring that was probably too vague to be the real answer, but I lucked out and GIANT, PRINCESS, WOLF, and WITCH were the yellow group. That still left eight mostly-unrelated words, including YOU, which had to be some kind of fill-in-the-blank, right? And who is this LUCY? She’s not the Peanuts character, so is she Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds? The fossil Australopithecus?
It took minutes of staring at the screen, but I got it! I LOVE LUCY, I LOVE YOU, I ❤️ NEW YORK, I LOVE ROCK ’N ROLL (so put another dime in the jukebox baby). And that left the chess terms, which turned out to be, yes, CHESS TERMS.
Today’s puzzle was hard, but also felt like a letdown to solve, because two of the categories were so vague. The better Connections puzzles have a clear theme to all the categories. Instead of chess terms, why not chess pieces? Instead of fairy tale figures, why not pick characters from a specific fairy tale—or, if you want to be broader, choose a theme like monsters or villains?
Thus concludes my complaining. I still got a perfect score, with my dumb luck, and I have to admit the “I LOVE ____” category was a nice little “aha” moment.