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Online Edition of The Cardinal Times

The Cardinal Times

It’s all fun and games… why New York Times games are so popular

Meghan Whitten
Wordle took over the world in 2021. Now, even more New York Times games, including Connections and “The Mini” have made their way into the scene.

Some start with SLATE, others with ALIAS, and some even start with ADIEU. What is your five-letter starting word for Wordle?

Wordle, a word-based game, hit the world by storm in 2021, when a Welsh software engineer, Josh Wardle, developed and released the game for his partner, and ultimately for the world.

In a time as stressful as the pandemic, people were looking for connections. And Wordle was just that, a mobile game that brought people together. 

Sophomore Lulu Lehmann expresses her feelings about how Wordle connected the world. 

“I think in eighth grade when Wordle first came out, everyone would play it in school and share answers, and that kind of brought everyone together,” said Lehmann.

This was the start of Wordle group chats, a phenomenon that allowed people to share their results including how many tries it took to guess the word: three, two or even one. 

“I have two Wordle group chats,” said Lehmann. “One with my family and one with my  friends.”

In January of 2021, The New York Times (NYT) purchased Wordle from Wardle.

NYT prints a historic crossword that has existed and been played continuously since 1942. The crossword can now be played online and through the NYT games app, similar to Wordle. 

In 2014, NYT also released “The Mini,” a smaller version of the crossword, followed by Spelling Bee, Letter Boxed, Tiles and Vertex, other mini games.   

Spelling Bee is a letter-based game that requires the player to make as many words as they can with 7 letters that are arranged in the shape of a honeycomb. Players must include the middle letter in all of their words. 

To play Letterboxed, players connect letters to form words around a box. The letters form a continuous strand and the ending letter of each word is the start of the next. 

Tiles, a more visually oriented game, has more complicated rules. The game board is made up of patterned squares that share certain similarities, like color, border design, etc. You must start at any square and then move to any other square that contains at least one of the patterns in your starting square. When you choose the next square, the overlapping patterns disappear from both squares.

Vertex is a triangle-based game that consists of forming an image by connecting the triangle’s vertices. 

When NYT purchased Wordle, many players worried that the game would no longer be free because of the paywalls NYT had on its website.

 In its announcement after buying Wordle from Wardle, NYT said Wordle would “initially” remain free to all users, regardless of a subscription. 

According to The National Post, Wordle has roughly two million players daily, as of September 2023. 

NYT then released a game called “Connections” in June 2023. Connections is a word game with 16 starting words. Four words fit into each category and their levels are color-coordinated based on easiest to hardest. Yellow is the easiest and purple is the hardest. 

Lehmann loves playing Connections because of how unique and challenging each puzzle can be. 

“I don’t really have a strategy for connections,” says Lehman. “Today was famous people’s last names, so it was like Mars, Swift, Grande and Styles.” 

Following the success of Connections and Wordle, several universities, including Princeton, have even taken it a step further by providing students with free NYT Games subscriptions

At Lincoln, students can be seen playing these games during breaks, lulls, or at lunch. 

Senior Tanush Sistla, President of Lincoln’s Game Development Club, understands exactly why these games are so intriguing.

“I think people like having a small challenge and accomplishing it and feeling like it’s because of their intelligence that they did it,” says Sistla. “That’s cool. It feels good for the brain. And so these are nice, tiny puzzles that are just hard enough that when you do get it, you’re like, ‘Oh, that makes sense,’ But also ‘Oh, that was difficult, I’m proud of having achieved [that].”’

Junior Hanna Hatfield is an avid Connections and Wordle player. She looks forward to solving these puzzles every day. 

“I think because it is a new puzzle everyday, you kind of get addicted to it. You wonder what the next puzzle is going to be,” says Hatfield. 

Jonathan Knight, NYT’s head of games, said in an interview with Axios that “What differentiates the Times’ games from myriad other mobile games is that they don’t try to keep you playing for as long as possible to boost ad revenue.” 

Sistla agrees that NYT games are different from other mobile games, but offers another reason why.

“I think mobile games have gotten very lazy over the past couple of years,” says Sistla. “It seems like the design of games like Candy Crush are very repetitive and samey. And so this is something that’s new every single day, it’s always slightly different.”

NYT games have taken over schools and connected us in many ways including helping us to stay virtually competitive during the pandemic. They are small, yet sometimes challenging games that many of us find addictive and intriguing. 

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About the Contributor
Meghan Whitten
Meghan Whitten, Sports Editor
Meghan is a sophomore this year. It's her first time on the paper, so she is excited for the experience and the chance to be a part of this amazing community! She is also excited to write for a publication! She loves sports and opinion pieces because they are so entertaining and fun to write!
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