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My first attempt at the game Connections did not get off to a good start. There was a grid of 16 words, and I’m supposed to pick out sets of four that each follow a theme. I went with rain, heat, snow, and sleet, only to be told that this was, somehow, wrong. Huh?

But a moment later that “huh” was replaced with an “aha.” Heat matched up with Jazz, Bucks, and Nets to make a set of NBA teams. Hail was the proper partner for the wet-weather words. Race car, which seemed to be an outlier—there were no other vehicles—turned out to be part of a set of palindromes.

That’s how you play the new puzzle game from the New York Times. The four sets of words are each color-coded according to their difficulty, and you’re allowed four “mistakes” (like my initial guess) before you officially lose. I only made that one mistake my first time, and solved the next day’s puzzle perfectly.

Connections (Puzzle #2)



The game is brand new, by the way. The NYT considers it to be in “beta” mode, which they describe here in a blog about an earlier game, Digits. If the game runs well and people seem to like it, it may end up as an official offering; if not, it could be scuttled.

How to win at Connections

Table of Contents

As I discovered on my first play, the point isn’t to look for just any four-word grouping, but to try to discover the groupings that the puzzle makers had in mind. So don’t be too trigger-happy when you see your first possible connection. Look at the items you’ve identified; could any of them fit elsewhere?

It’s also strategic to mentally put a name to the thing your four potential matches have in common. The game’s help screen hints that the categories will never be as broad as “names” or “verbs,” so make sure you’ve pinned down something specific. Note that my initial guess was just “weather,” but the real grouping turned out to be “wet weather.” The game will name the theme after you correctly guess the grouping.

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