How to Play NYT Strands (with Tips & Tricks)

In Short
  • Strands is the latest word-based puzzle game, alongside Connections and Wordle, released by the New York Times.
  • To complete the daily puzzle, you must detect words related to the theme for the day and the theme as well, which is called a Spangram.
  • You can play Strands for free on the NYT Games website. The game is yet to be added to the NYT Games mobile app.

If you are one of those people who can’t start their day without a game of NYT Connections or Wordle, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a new kid on the block. New York Times rolled out Strands, a free-to-play word guessing game, on March 4, 2024, and it’s winning hearts everywhere. The game brings some much-needed freshness to NYT’s classic game collection and certainly gets those cogs turning. Let’s begin our journey together by telling you what it is like and how to play NYT Strands right here.

What is Strands, NYT’s New Word Search Game?

Most of us have probably been exposed to the frustration of “words” with Scrabble early on. Well, think of Scrabble and add a touch of mystery to it. That’s how you get Strands. It uses the popular word search formula and builds on it by adding unique elements to make it more interesting.

Players start with random letters in a 6 x 8 grid, along with a daily theme hint. The aim of the game is to find the list of words common to the theme. Yeah, the New York Times does not tell you the theme. It instead gives you a hint. But once you find enough words in the grid, you’ll start to see the theme surface. However, the highlight of the game lies in the Spangram.

NYT Strands Home Page

The Spangram is the unique word in NYT Strands and acts as the base of the theme. What all the words in Strands have in common is described by the Spangram, which is the actual theme of every day’s puzzle. Once solved, the Spangram is marked in yellow letters.

NYT Strands Spangram

The Spangram connects the entire grid and can be top-bottom or side-to-side. Once you find all the other words, including the Spangram, you complete NYT Strands for the day.

NYT Strands provides hints to help you along your path. Guessing any unrelated four-letter or more words will fill up the hint bar. Find three non-theme words, and the hint bar will turn black. The game is now ready to help you find a word. The hint will encircle the relevant letters you’ll need for one of the main words.

Now that we have a good idea of NYT Strands, let’s begin learning how to play it.

How to Play NYT Strands Online

While the game is in beta, you can play it for free on NYT Games’ official website. Furthermore, for those wondering, it has not yet been added to the NYT Games app. So, you will need to visit the link and follow the steps below:

  • As mentioned above, you’ll see the letter grid on the right and a hint for today’s theme on the left.
  • Begin by using your mouse to connect a bunch of letters together. You can do this by dragging the cursor or clicking on them. If on mobile, simply use your finger to drag. Selecting the theme word will highlight it in Blue.
  • How to Play NYT Strands (with Tips & Tricks)
  • Word highlighted in blue nyt strands
  • Now that you know how to connect the letters begin by connecting more of them together. As mentioned, you must look for theme-centric words on the board and connect them. For instance – Canyon for today’s theme makes sense, and I’ll be looking for more like those. As you uncover more words, you’ll see the word list add up, and the grid fills up.
  • If at any point, you can’t find any more theme words, start to look for unrelated ones to fill up the hint bar. Once done, click the “Hint” button, and the letters will be encircled in a dashed blue outline.
  • How to Play NYT Strands (with Tips & Tricks)
  • Hint letters encircled
  • Keep using the hints and your own wits to find all the connected words. As you get closer to victory, you will see the NYT Strands grid narrow down. We are reaching the Spangram.
Close to Spangram NYT Strands
  • At this point, I can see that the Spangram for NYT Strands is related to a big theme. Nearing the journey, I saw a tight spot of letters that told me I had my target. I trace them all together and get the Spangram for NYT Strands. Once done, the word is highlighted in Yellow, and I win!
  • How to Play NYT Strands (with Tips & Tricks)
  • Spangram detected NYT Strands

Once you solve an NYT Strands puzzle, you can also tap on the View Results button to get some additional details, like how many hints you used. Alternatively, you can Share your Results by clicking on the dedicated button, and an emoji-style result, similar to Wordle, will be copied.

NYT Strands game results

And that is how you play NYT Strands. Sound easy enough? Well, it’s not. Make your life easier by sticking around and checking out the best tips and tricks for NYT Strands below:

NYT Strands Tips and Tricks

While solving NYT Strands may seem like a walk in the park, it’s not that easy. To help you along, I have gathered a collection of the best tips and tricks that you can use. With that, here we go.

1. There Is No Right Path

As I mentioned before, a Strands board does not limit you like Sudoku, Scrabble, or similar word search games. There are no specific paths you must trace to get to a word.

Finding Spangram

While I was confused about how to go about it at first, I realized you can drag the letters along both horizontally and vertically or even zig-zag your way through. Once you get a hang of it, every corner features a word you couldn’t spot before. So keep this in mind.

2. Spangram for the Win

While the daily theme for NYT Strands is something that might confuse you, the Spangram is your friend here. Figuring out this handy word early on will not only get you ahead but will give you a hint for the other theme words.

When trying to detect the Spangram, remember that it spans the entire length of the board. So feel free to drag your cursor from top-bottom and side to side, and you might uncover the theme as opposed to a word.

3. It’s Okay to Use Hints

As someone with an ego the size of Mt. Everest, I fully understand if you might not want to use any hints. However, unlike other puzzles, NYT Strands will give you a run for its money. So, if you find yourself at your wit’s end, tap that hint button and get some extra help.

As mentioned, hints will highlight one of the main theme words in blue. So, keep guessing unrelated words and getting hints to get to the Spangram the fastest!

4. Don’t Overthink It

So, my editor and I were solving a game of Strands one fine day, and he figured out the Spangram way earlier than I did. As soon as he told me not to overthink it and that it was right there staring at my face I simplified my thoughts, and there it was.

Moral of this small story? Most of the theme words and the Spangram itself are not overly complex and, oftentimes, are the most commonly used words of all time. Hence, overthinking can definitely be your worst enemy in Strands.

5. Be Consistent

As with everything in life, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Fortunately, this applies to NYT Strands too. As such, I suggest you play NYT Strands every day and keep coming back to it to build a solid understanding of the game.

Once you’ve played it enough, you’ll start using fewer and fewer hints, and before you know it, the puzzle will become clockwork.

Now, if you like the game like I do, I’d definitly recommend telling your friends about it. Since the game is in beta, it’s mostly a test to see how people enjoy it. Let’s hope Strands gets the attention it deserves and becomes a daily gig for NYT. Who knows, we may also get to see it pop up on the NYT Games app, which would be convenient.

That’s everything you need to know about NYT Strands. That being said, what do you think about the game? Let me know in the comments down below!

comment Comments 1
  • Francisco Prieto says:

    I think it’s a great game. Thanks

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