Placeholder while article actions load

Game designer and artist Zach Gage has made a name for himself breaking down the world’s most commonly played games and creating something new from the pieces. He’s brought the strategy of poker to solitaire, built a chaotic version of chess with randomized pieces and, now, made a crossword-style puzzle where the grid patterns themselves are the clues.

It’s called Knotwords, a daily logic puzzle that combines design elements from several commonly played games: sudoku, kakuro, kenken and, of course, Wordle — the viral five-letter word-guessing game the New York Times scooped up earlier this year.

Worldle, Semantle, Heardle and 9 other Wordle alternatives

Gage co-developed Knotwords — out now on iOS, Android and PC — with designer and longtime collaborator Jack Schlesinger. Like all good puzzles, the premise of Knotwords is deceptively simple: fit all the words in the right places.

The board resembles a crossword puzzle, but there are no trivia questions to help you guess which words go where. Instead, the board is divided into several regions, each with a limited selection of letters you can use. These letters serve as clues to piece together the correct words to fill up the grid, just like in a crossword puzzle. The challenge comes from tinkering with these building blocks, testing out different combinations of letters like you would in a numbers-based puzzle and whittling down the possibilities.

Solving the puzzle then becomes an intricate process that can feel like you’re interlocking cogs into a literary machine. Oftentimes, the best place to start is with two- or three-letter words, where there are fewer possible solutions. After nailing down those letters, you can use them as sign posts to figure out what the other words can or can’t be, as you do in Wordle, which helps to narrow down your options for the longer words that make up the board. Once you fill out enough of the board, the remaining solutions often snowball from there (and it is satisfying). If you get stumped, you can unlock a hint to get the dictionary definition of one of the words that make up the grid.

Though the game has only been out a few weeks, it’s already earned Wordle creator Josh Wardle’s seal of approval. He hailed it on Twitter as “an incredibly elegant daily word game.”

“What impresses me most is that, despite its deceptively simple appearance, it has clearly been built with a great deal of thought and care,” he wrote.

The concept for Knotwords predates Wordle, Gage said in a recent interview with the Verge. He and Schlesinger originally came up with the idea while developing Good Sudoku, an app released in 2021 that optimizes the process of solving sudoku puzzles. However, witnessing Wordle’s runaway success inspired the developers to tweak some aspects of Knotwords’s design. For example, the game offers a new puzzle each day for players to solve. Figuring out Wordle’s mystery word has become a daily ritual for millions — the kind of pattern-seeking behavior our brains crave.

Coming up with an easy, visually intriguing way for players to share their wins online was another Wordle inspiration. After solving a puzzle, players can share a blank version on social media that anyone can print out and solve without downloading the app, since Knotwords was designed to function both as an online game and as a pen-and-paper game.

The free version of Knotwords on mobile offers a new puzzle each day along with 10 additional puzzles each month. Players can unlock the full game by subscribing to a $4.99 yearly subscription service or paying a one-time fee of $11.99, which includes an archive of past puzzles as well as additional monthly puzzles and variations.

Many of Gage’s works have found success on mobile, including Really Bad Chess, Pocket-Run Pool, Flipflop Solitaire and SpellTower Plus. In addition to Schlesinger, he’s also partnered with “Adventure Time” creator Pendleton Ward on the Apple Arcade exclusive “Card of Darkness,” a vividly animated adventure card game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *