Barc Rack

Have you been playing Connections, the newest game by The New York Times? It's inspired by a segment on the British game show Only Connect (which you can watch episodes of here), which has been going for something like 19 seasons and is one of the smartest game shows out there. I love it, though it's inevitable that at least one category a show will be about something extremely British, which, as an American, I find equal parts befuddling and charming.

A thing we all know

In the show’s Connecting Wall segment, which Connections is based on,  you get 16 words or phrases that you have to sort into 4 categories. On the show, the contestants are under the clock, but in the NYT game, fortunately, you're not.

A possible Connecting wall

I've been playing NYT’s game every day, along with a half-dozen other hand-rolled Connections games that friends post on various Discords. All of which, of course, led me to make my own. I'm up to 17, and I'm collecting them all, along with hints, here:

Here are all the Connections games I’ve built over at Anthony Kenzo Salazar’s DIY website. These were inspired by the NYT game (rules and explanation are here), which itself was inspired by the connecting wall from the BBC’s Only Connect. ✨To learn about these as I post them, follow me

The NYT version often gets a little tricky by including a word or two that can fit in a few categories, then building the sets from there. It's a good construction strategy, which I adopted at first, but then I stumbled on a method that is a bit more fun and challenging: finding four categories that either make up a set themselves, or tell a story, or are a little cheeky. For example:

  • 4 synonyms for tinker
  • 4 people named Taylor
  • 4 words that pair with "soldier"
  • 4 famous spies

The trick is finding the balance between rewarding theme and a solvable puzzle. Hopefully most of the grids on the page above land in that zone.

Mystery #14: Play It Again

Meanwhile, continuing with the Connections theme, my colleague Hannah and I built up an entire Mystery that's entirely made up of 16 Connections puzzles. I think this one is more approachable than most Mysteries in the vault, as it's clear how to get started: just start solving the grids. Please enjoy!

Play It Again
A tribute to Connections.

October Puzzler

Every month I offer a new bite-sized puzzle. Here's the latest one:

Think of two words: 1) somewhere you might go if you’re feeling too much pressure, and 2) something you might do if you’re feeling too much pressure. Put them together, add a space, and you’ll get something that would come in handy if you have too little pressure.

Submit your answer here 🗳

The Morrison Game Factory

This Kickstarter is an instant back for me, as it's by PostCurious, who made The Emerald Flame, one of my favorite at-home puzzle experiences of the last few years. Here's a review of the game by ARGNet:

Morrison Game Factory Delivers Gripping Story, Right Off the Assembly Line | ARGNet: Alternate Reality Gaming Network
The Morrison Game Factory is PostCurious’ newest narrative puzzle game, exploring the box from a now-defunct board game company to learn more about a former designer’s secret side project.
"PostCurious games revel in delivering an intensely tactile experience, both as a puzzle-solving experience, but also as a vector for storytelling… I can enthusiastically say The Morrison Game Factory continues to deliver on that promise."

Puzzmo, by Zach Gage

Puzzmo is the (new) place for thoughtful puzzles
Be one of the first to solve today’s puzzle and unlock access to Puzzmo.

I'm always happy to see a new puzzle platform in the world, and I'm always thrilled to see something new by Zach Gage, co-creator of Ridiculous Fishing, Really Bad Chess, and Spell Tower. This week Zach has (soft) launched Puzzmo, which I wish I could tell you more about, but I haven't even gotten in yet. They're giving out only a few access codes a day, and they go fast. Sign up to be alerted when new codes get released.

The Puzzler podcast, with A.J. Jacobs

A new puzzle podcast has entered the chat. A.J. Jacobs, who recently published a book on puzzles, is hosting a daily 10-minute puzzle podcast, with original puzzles written by Greg Pliska. This is the roughly the same format as NPR's on-air Sunday Puzzle, but shorter, daily, and with celebrity guests.

‎The Puzzler with A.J. Jacobs on Apple Podcasts
‎Leisure · 2023

Solution to the September Puzzler

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