The student news site of Wilmington Friends School

The Whittier Miscellany

The student news site of Wilmington Friends School

The Whittier Miscellany

The student news site of Wilmington Friends School

The Whittier Miscellany

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“Nerd York Times” Games Strike WFS

How much time does one Amelia Rolls ‘25 spend puzzling over the New York Times’ daily games? “Too much,” she responds. 

It’s an undeniably common experience for Wilmington Friends School students—walking down the hall past the Junior Lounge and spotting someone puzzling over Connections or Wordle, often with an intensity that’s impossible to miss. But can you really ever spend too much time puzzling?

Every few years, a new fad consumes the grounds of Wilmington Friends School. Two years ago it was chess. In recent months, it seems as though students have become obsessed with everything New York Times related. From crosswords to sudoku, word games to word plays, students across the school seem to enjoy some healthy competition with their peers under the category of, “I got the Connections with no mistakes today and you didn’t”. 

Micheline McManus, avid lover of Wordle and Connections and an upper school English teacher at WFS says, “I think that WFS students do like those New York Times puzzles because they’re such good encapsulation of the beautiful friction that comes when there’s just enough joy, and just enough challenge.”

McManus finds a way to incorporate these puzzles into her “Team Thursdays”, a lively tradition that groups students together and forces them to think on their feet in front of a fellow teenage audience. “Every week I play some kind of game at the start of class on Thursdays, and every third or fourth week I’ll do some kind of New York Times game, because there’s all these wonderful apps where you can make your own,” says McManus.

Puzzlers will always find a way to puzzle, as proven by Logan Scott ‘25, an online puzzle enthusiast who has moved on from New York Times games to geography and math games like the Angle (a puzzle that requires you to correctly guess the angle created by a pair of lines). Scott says, “I like the Connections because it’s fun to tie all those words together, and it’s really satisfying especially when you get the hardest one first. It’s instant gratification, and it’s great in the morning when I’m not fully awake yet.” Scott also falls under the category of competitive puzzlers, showcased by his ever-running daily streak of comparing his results with Steven Kozikowski ‘25, to find who solved the puzzle in the fewest attempts.

In many ways, it seems rather serendipitous that students have become so enamored with New York Times puzzles and chess matches. 

McManus states, “I feel like those [New York Times] puzzles are really good, but really any kind of gameplay is great, for creating that fun magic circle of weird rules you have to follow for a short period of time that allow you to feel like you can fail. So you can have a challenge, you can fail at it, but you can collaborate with people in a really fun way.”

A natural student’s love for short-running intellectual puzzles can be looked at in two ways. One of those being that New York Times games are a focus-inhibitor. When asked if he ever finds online puzzles to be a distraction from school work, Logan Scott ‘25 immediately responded, “Yeah. It has its negatives but I think sometimes instead of doing schoolwork I want to do something that feels productive while I’m doing it rather than waiting for the long term gratification of doing an assignment. It’s just a different part of my brain I use when I’m doing those puzzles.”

On the other hand, who said a non-conventional brain teaser has to be a distraction and not a refresher? Studies conducted in the past decade reveal benefits for using games as a tool for learning, including increased attentiveness, participation, and motivation.

“I think a love of these puzzles shows that people love language,” says McManus. “And I’m all in. I’m a thousand percent for anybody who says, ‘How can I think about words differently?’ I think that’s great.”

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