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Strands Puts a Twist on a Classic Puzzle

Word search puzzles are part of my childhood. I found them everywhere: inside magazines in the doctor’s waiting room, on the backs of kids’ menus, and even class worksheets. But despite the initial thrill of a word treasure hunt, these brain teasers can quickly get old and repetitive. The New York Times reignited my interest on Monday, March 4, with the release of ‘Strands,’ a twist on the classic challenge and the latest addition to its extensive puzzle repertoire.

The objective is to find the words that fill up the 6 x 8 grid, which share a common theme hinted by Today’s Theme. One of the words, the spangram, describes what all the terms share. It must touch two opposite ends of the game board. It is highlighted in yellow once found, while the other theme words are highlighted in blue. For example, the theme of Strands #1 was ‘Mark my words.’ The spangram was ‘punctuation,’ and theme words included ‘comma,’ ‘apostrophe,’ and ‘slash.’


  • None of the theme words overlap and each appears only once on the board. They can bend in any direction and change direction in the middle of the word.
  • Select words by clicking/tapping on each letter in succession and double-tapping the last letter, or by dragging across the characters.

Research director Juliette Seive proposed the idea for Strands at the Annual Game Jam, inspired by her word-search-loving partner and his grandma. With a developer committee, she worked on the puzzle for several weeks before it was ready for release.

Like all other New York Times games, Strands is starting in the Beta phase, which means it is only available on the web and not on the NYT Games app. It will become a platform staple with the likes of Connections, Spelling Bee, Wordle, and the Crossword if enough players play the puzzle every day.

This is likely to happen, given that the Strands editor, Tracy Bennett, also oversees brainteasers such as Wordle that have collected a loyal fanbase of millions. In the hands of a person who regularly throws curveballs in her designs, (remember when ‘stick’ was included with ‘glue,’ ‘gum,’ and ‘tape’ in the ‘sticky’ category in Connections?), we can expect that this word search rendition will be anything but boring.


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