A suggested improvement for the New York Times's "Connections" interface

Written on January 11, 2024

“Connections” is a new puzzle game released by the New York Times, in which the user assigns items to groups that share something in common, such as “States of Matter” or “__ Pitch.” In some cases there are particular examples that may appear to belong to more than one category, but each puzzle only has one unique solution in which all sixteen items are in a group of four.

The fun in the puzzle is sorting out spurious groups from real ones. The problem is that the user interface is wholly unsuited for this—the user can’t do anything except click to assign an item to a group. As I’m going about the puzzle (especially the harder ones), I want to be able to make provisional groups to see if they work in the context of the whole puzzle without submitting them. Because I can’t do this, I have to keep track of the provisional groups in my head, which becomes an entirely different type of challenge from the puzzle itself, more akin to playing blindfold chess than logical deduction.

A simple drag-and-drop interface—or “provisional coloring” without forcing submission—would be a huge improvement, and allow for much more difficult, entertaining puzzles while still being fair.

New York Times Connections game