An Open Letter to Wyna Liu, the New York Times’ Connections Editor

Tue, 16/04/2024 - 22:00
Tue, 16/04/2024 - 22:00

Dear Wyna Liu, Editor of Connections:

My morning ritual used to be a time of peace and solitude. A sacred time in which I’d gather up the energy to face the day. I’d brew my coffee and eat my smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel. And then I’d open up the New York Times Games App.

I’d always start with the Spelling Bee. Personally, I like to find the pangram first and then hopefully find enough words for a respectable “Great” or “Amazing.” Not every morning is a “Genius!” morning—and that’s okay!

Then, I’d do the daily Crossword. Not the Mini, the Crossword. A delightful five-minute exercise on Mondays, an hour-long conquest on Sundays.

And if I still had time before my first meeting of the day (and sometimes I’ll admit, during my first meeting of the day), I’d do the sudokus. My personal goal was to solve the easy level in under three minutes and the medium in under four. Just for an extra little challenge, you know?

These puzzles were our brain ticklers, modern man’s solution to the sphinx’s riddle. But you got excited, maybe you got greedy.

You introduced Connections.

It was a simple enough concept. Sixteen words. Four categories. All we had to do was find the four groups of four words. You were merciful. You let us have a few chances to make mistakes and you’d even tell us if we were on the right track.

The first few games were fun. Seductive. Intriguing. Playful.

But then they got sneaky. Maybe you realized it wasn’t all that easy to come up with these puzzles and you decided to get a bit creative. I saw it happen over those first few weeks. And now, every day, I wake up and I see your tricks. The overlapping words across all four categories. The carefully arranged word placement forcing us to see your misleading phrases. I remember the time you gave us the names of three social media platforms and we racked our brains trying to find a fourth that simply didn’t exist. And let’s not forget about the category that was “Words that start with classic rock band names.” Who wouldn’t get that?

Sometimes, they’re not even words. Once, it was just sixteen pairs of letters. Another time, it was emojis.

When I work out two categories and have just eight words left, you’d think it’d be easy. But that’s still seventy possible combinations. Seventy! And do you know how many meanings words have in English? It’s not one of those hyper-precise languages like German where you can keep clumping words together. The word “run” has 645 different definitions on its own. I’m terrified of that word now.

Sure, when I solve the game on the first try, I’m elated. I’m basically bouncing off the walls. But on those days when I don’t solve it… well, let’s just say those are dark days. I don’t sleep properly anymore. I can’t eat. I haven’t had a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel in months. Those sixteen words haunt me.

So here’s a little puzzle for you, Ms Liu. Let’s see if you can guess the categories:


Yours truly,
A discontented & disconnected puzzler

- - -


1. My mornings.
2. Things I’ve been called recently.
3. My wife is leaving—also the answer to ‘I; Am; Getting; Divorced’.
4. While we’re at it, words that should be recognized in the Spelling Bee, but aren’t (and these are just ones that start with the letter L). It would be great if you could fix that too.