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Overexplained Lists

New York Times Games, Ranked

9:44 AM EST on January 24, 2024

Woman plays Wordle on her smartphone at the kitchen table of her home on 26th November 2023 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. Wordle is a web-based word game played by millions of users / players worldwide often on their mobile devices. The game was created and developed by software engineer Josh Wardle, and owned by The New York Times Company since 2022.
Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images

The first thing I do every morning is grab my phone and play all of the daily games in the New York Times Games app. This is because I’m a good little yuppie. My children also play these games every day, which means that they'll grow up to be just like me one day. Lucky them. These games have become so popular, in fact, that they stand to render all of us good little yuppies: the kind of showy intellectuals who drive a base model Volvo and will read a profile of Nikki Haley without bursting into laughter. But they’re also extremely GOOD games, and they serve as a pleasant mental jog to get the day started.

Ah, but which one of them is the best? I am now seasoned enough to answer that question. I rarely ever get beaten by the Wordle, so you can trust that I’m a man of the utmost refinement. I will rank the Times games for you now, and you will treat these rankings as gospel because you lack a mind of your own. Let’s begin.

1. Tiles

I avoided playing Tiles for months because I figured it was just a mahjong knockoff. Also, I couldn’t figure out how to play it, even when I read the rules multiple times over. But then the light went on, and I cleaned my first Tiles board shortly thereafter. The boards go on a circuit, some of which are easier than others. The 3D blocks one really fucks me good if I’m not dialed in, or if one block is completely obscured by another one I haven’t removed yet. But when I clean off an entire board without making a mistake, I feel the same sense of satisfaction I might get from building a dresser, or from raising the dead. Tiles is a near flawless game because it’s untimed (I don’t like having to beat a clock), it has a rhythm you can fall into, and it’s visually soothing. Also, if I can keep a chain going without leaving any free spaces, I feel like the smartest little boy in the world.

2. The Mini-Crossword

Obviously, this is not the greatest regularly scheduled crossword puzzle out there in the world, but it’s easy, which is how I like all of my crossword puzzles. If your crossword puzzle features coy puns that would have been amusing back in 1953, I want no part of it. Gimme one with clues like “Matt LeBlanc played him on Friends.” That’s the kind of airline magazine crossword clue that really revs my engine. One time I finished this bad boy in less than 30 seconds, without even having to look at the up-and-down clues. I expect my MENSA invite to come in the mail at any time.

3. Wordle

The only time I get got by the Wordle these days is if it contains three of the same letter in it: SASSY, DADDY, LOLLY. I deem those Wordles flawed, and therefore my losses void. But most of the time, I nail it before reaching the dreaded PHEW! attempt. No one posts their Wordle results online anymore, because that trend got lame as shit. But do I secretly cherish the many times that I solve the Wordle before everyone else in my family does? No comment.

4. Connections

I got dragged on Bluesky when I complained that some of the words in the Connections puzzle fit much better into other categories than the one they’ve been assigned. Everyone yelled THAT’S THE POINT at me, to which I respond: Did you not see how fast I can do the mini-crossword, you angry fart? Do not dismiss my grievances. When you have “Oui” as one of the words in here and it DOESN’T go into the “Saying hello in other languages” category, I’m right to protest. Also, this is the game I lose the most frequently, and I find losing most dissatisfying.

5. Spelling Bee

DISCLOSURE: I do not have a subscription to the Times Games app, because I’m a selective cheapskate. As such, I’m never allowed to play Spelling Bee in full, which means that the game randomly cuts me off, usually right as I’ve reached the SOLID level. As someone who spelled BABUSHKA correctly in his middle school spelling bee, I am clearly more than just a solid speller. I kick ass. But would I like to exploit that talent fully with paid access to the entire Spelling Bee game? No. I find this game oddly stressful, like I’m on a timer even though I’m not. Feels like busywork.

[A NOTE FROM ALBERT: One thing I do to juice the Spelling Bee-without-a-Games-subscription experience is, I try to see how quickly I can make the game slam down its paywall, which I take as a surrender on its part. So like, instead of cranking out a bunch of four-letter combos while it smugly indulges my efforts, I go for a pair of pangrams right off the bat, which will make Spelling Bee beg for mercy and/or my wallet 100-percent of the time. Then I can call the game a loser for taking its ball and going home.]

6. Sudoku

Sudoku here is the same as Sudoku anywhere else. Also, the MEDIUM setting is hard as shit! What am I, Stephen Hawking? I’m here to feel smart, Games team. Don’t fuck me like this.

7. The Big Crossword

Way too fucking hard. Nerd shit. Pass.

8. French-kissing a horse’s asshole

9. Letter Boxed

I save Tiles for last every morning, because it’s the best of the bunch and it leaves me in a fine mood. But right before I do my Tiles, I have to do Letterboxed, as a chore. I don’t find this game fun, mainly because I always get a U and a V. Those are two of the worst letters to draw in Scrabble, and they’re no more welcome here. The number of times I’ve spelled out three words before realizing, “Aw shit, I left a goddamn J open,” has been far too many. I like to think in the morning, and I like to be challenged. But only a LITTLE. Make me think too hard and suddenly I’d rather just eat a Pop Tart. This game is pure busywork, and therefore must be replaced, preferably with the football Immaculate Grid. That is all.

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