My Strands Solution: Breaking Down the New York Times’ Latest Phenomenon

There’s a new perpetual-puzzle challenger in town, Strands, which makes us think and flex our muscles of vocabulary and pattern recognition. For years, various forms of word puzzles have topped the list as brain teasers for many readers. The latest addition to the New York Times lineup of games is an inspired twist on the humble solve-a-word game: Strands. A clever hybrid of word search and crossword puzzle, it tests both your powers of observation and your wits. We’re going to highlight the fine points of Strands and, in addition to handing out hints and strategies, we’re going to give the answers throughout.

Understanding the Basics of Strands

What Sets Strands Apart?

Unique to Strands are theme words, in which theme-based words are woven into the letter grid for each puzzle. Solvers are instructed to ‘find the theme words’, but the process doesn’t end there, as Strains’ inventor has also introduced the concept of ‘theme words’ and ‘spangrams’, unique to her game, which must be located.

The Thrill of the Spangram

One of the delights of solving any Strands puzzle is the discovery of the spangram – a thematic word or phrase spanning two opposite sides of the grid from end to end. Having located the spangram is not only a cause for celebration, but also a clue to solving the theme of the puzzle in the first place.

The Art of Playing Strands

Strategies for Success

  • Scout for the spangram: The earlier you identify the spangram, the better you’re able to collar the theme and to help guide your search for the remaining entries.
  • Collect Hints Through Non-Theme Words: Collect hints to reveal parts of a theme word which helps in putting the puzzle together.
  • Make Use of All the Letters: After all, each letter is used exactly once, in place known by looking at theme words, which our rule forbidding reuse ensures.

A Glimpse into Today's Puzzle: Nailing the Theme

The Hint Revealed

This week’s topic, ‘Nailed it!’, is slightly off the literal hook (nailing-wise, and nails in things that aren’t buildings or structures don’t really have a ‘hook’).

Unveiling the Spangram and Theme Words

  • Spangram: MANICURE—a clue that sets the tone for the puzzle, indicating a beauty-oriented theme.
  • Phrase Keys: The solution blossoms to display words indelibly associated with nail maintenance: COLOR, CLEANSE, TOPPER, BASE, BUFF, MOISTURISE, FILE — each an action leading to the flawless manicure.

Lessons from Today’s Solutions

The correct answers to the trio of Twisted Strands puzzles I have offered above will help to demonstrate the value of such poetic wordplay and thematic depth to the pleasures of these puzzles in particular and of problem solving in general.

Why Strands Might Just Become Your New Favorite Puzzle

The Evolution of Word Puzzles

Strands sees the puzzle leaping forward into the 21st century. The formula borrows elements from the timeless crossword and today’s viral hit, the wordle game Wordle, packing an exciting new level of complexity and depth. It is an innovation that would not have been possible without the endless efforts of the New York Times to develop the puzzle form.

A Daily Dose of Brain Exercise

But playing Strands regularly can be a real workout for the brain: it helps with skills such as pattern recognition, vocabulary and strategic thinking.

A Social Endeavor

Swapping tips, congratulating one another on solutions, and commiserating over especially tough puzzles can create a sense of belonging among Strands fans, just as social engagement has made Wordle a household name.

Exploring the Essence of "CLASSIC"

Given this, what makes Strains so seductive? Where does it fit amid other classic word puzzles? What makes a game into a classic — something that ‘will last’ (from the Latin word classicus, meaning something of the first rank, standard, or best of its kind)? Classic connotes enduring quality, lasting appeal and generality; I feel all these in the Strands. I suspect that Strands might become the kind of puzzle that many will come to love.

To put wings to our arms, grasp the slate tightThe sky and cloudscapes might hide behind a wall of fog. And on that wall, you might find only white – blank spaces teasing you, where connecting lines are in order. But the connections come not from me, nor from you. They unfold, word by word, from a soul-filled poetic source that transcends us all, wrapped within tangled narratives I have unfurled like ribbons. In a truly encompassing sense of the word, Strands is not just new; it’s an upgrade, a renovation. A reinvention, a reintegration of the old and new. A place, a space, where people like us can engage in a tête-à-tête, four lines of words set to a grid, every day. A place where we can banter, play and learn from one another – not just by finding the words, but, by weaving them, immersed in a connection so real.

Jun 02, 2024
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