A newsletter that brings together all the pieces
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Whether you start your day with a coffee and a crossword, or end it with a scramble to answer Wordle before the grid resets at midnight, The New York Times Games team has a challenge for you. Over the past few years, The Times has expanded its puzzle package, and with so many different games to play, solvers might find it hard to keep up with everything. A new newsletter from the Games team is here to help.
The Gameplay newsletter, which began in June, gives readers insight into the puzzles they love and provides solving tips. It takes what could be disparate gaming communities and brings them into a digital town hall where players of all Times games can feel connected to each other and to the Games team.
Everdeen Mason, the editorial director of Games, said in an interview that she wanted newsletter readers to feel like they were “peeking behind the curtain, and as if they were talking to one editors who do the puzzles”. .”
Editors are at the center of the newsletter, sharing tidbits, crossword puzzle stories, and what they’ve learned on the job. Each newsletter begins with an introduction from a game publisher, who reflects on the origins of their passion for puzzles or shares insider knowledge, for example, on what inspired the creation of the online forum Spelling Bee, a popular discussion platform.
“We are real people; we care about it and we love it,” said Dylan Campbell, a producer on the team. “And we want you to have as much fun playing the games as we do making them.”
The gameplay, which is emailed to subscribers every Thursday, also includes several features that can’t be found anywhere else. A draw is game statistics, compiled by the Games team, the Data Insights team and the Upshot office. Each newsletter begins with the Wordle Weekly Recap, which examines the hardest and easiest answers of the week and the average number of solver guesses for both. A review of the Spelling Bee puzzles of the week gives readers a chance to see how they fared against other solvers.
There are also several games players will only find in the newsletter, such as the Brain Tickler – a puzzle challenge – and an archived crossword. (Crosswords are otherwise only available through a subscription to The New York Times games.) Archived Crosswords are still a Monday Puzzle, which is the easiest daily crossword, so new solvers are less likely to feel overwhelmed.
The publishers also plan to release a series on how players can improve their crossword skills. This kind of commitment to player experience and engagement exemplifies the community the Games team seeks to foster.
“It’s not just a crossword community with other players, but a crossword community with our editors,” Ms. Campbell said.
Another key part of the Gameplay newsletter is to encourage two-way communication with readers. A prompt in the newsletter, for example, asks for reader feedback or their favorite crossword clue of the week. Readers’ emails don’t go to a phantom inbox – Ms. Campbell personally reads messages submitted by users, ensuring there are no technical issues. She’s also looking for “all of people’s ideas of what to include,” she said. The newsletter shared an open call for Spelling Bee players to submit their own photos of bees, to be featured as art on the Spelling Bee forum. The team has received nearly 1,900 submissions so far, said Isaac Aronow, the team’s editor.
This type of circular feedback contributes to a newsletter that stays in motion. Publishers are always looking to be more engaged with players and to make the experience as common as possible. Ms Mason said the team wanted the newsletter “to have a bit of a voice, we want it to show our personality”.
Ms Campbell said the team is always looking for ways to improve the reader experience and further instill that sense of place. “I hope this is just the first step,” she said, “in that we are more open to communicating with our audience.”