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I've been curating the tag recently, predominantly to remove instances of it that have been used with puzzles, since this isn't the intended usage (mainly on my own puzzles, it turns out – I’ve been culprit #1!). In fact, the true intended usage is my question here...

The tag excerpt (which shows up on hover-over) says just “A puzzle involving making connections between several clues in a list.” However, the full details in the tag info (never updated since it was first created in March 2015) say:

“This tag is for puzzles where a list of several items is given, each one connected cryptically to the next. The solver's task is to work out what the items are and how they are connected.”

I’ve reached the point in my curation where I’ve picked all the low-hanging fruit – fixing the obviously incorrect uses and the connect-wall over-uses – and instead I’m finding lots of puzzles that use a phrase like ‘spot the connection’, but which didn’t really fulfil any kind of ‘cryptic’ (in the sense of ‘mysterious’) element, as per the tag description. Often, these puzzles comprise a simple list of words or a set of images which have some kind of shared connection, and the point of the puzzle is to unearth it – see, for instance, this puzzle and this other one.

These types of puzzles are likely the ones that jump to your mind when you think of a 'connection puzzle' (I know they are for me). However, as this tag's description is currently worded, it appears it was initially created more for puzzles like this one in 2015, where there is a real element of mystery around a series of connections between obscured items.

The thing is, that style of question is really specific, very niche, and has barely ever been used, whilst questions of the form “What connects the words in this list?” are far more common and – I would say – probably the most appropriate usage of this particular tag, which is a natural one to gravitate towards using when creating a puzzle based on connecting items in a list (as, indeed, it has proved to be for many puzzle setters here over the years). I propose to improve the tag description to reflect this better – specifically, to word it in a way that these 'connect the items in a list' questions are definitely included in the intended usage, because right now they 'don't seem cryptic enough' to be covered by what the description currently says at face value.

I am happy to make these improvements myself, but before doing anything I wish to check: Does anybody foresee any issues with this changing-the-description/purpose-of-the-tag-to-match-its-most-common-usage idea?

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    $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, this seems fine to me. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan Mod
    Commented Jan 10 at 0:11
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    $\begingroup$ Huh. Apparently I created that tag wiki and excerpt back in 2015, but I've totally forgotten doing so and didn't even remember that the tag existed until seeing this meta post. As you've been doing the legwork of curating the tag and making sure it's used consistently, I'd say you know best how it should be used, so go for it. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 10 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @Randal'Thor - I wondered if it might have been one of those tags set up when the site was young to cater for some perceived use cases, but which over time has actually been found more relevant to a broader set of puzzles... Unless any serious objections appear, I'll get this sorted this week :) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Commented Jan 10 at 22:38
  • $\begingroup$ Are you also proposing a tag name change or would that be a separate question? $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Commented Jan 12 at 5:47
  • $\begingroup$ @bobble Nah, just the description. I think 'connections-puzzle' works fine right now, but we can always think about it later if people are keen to... $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Commented Jan 12 at 7:10
  • $\begingroup$ Tangent: So "connect-wall" means a puzzle like Connections, and "connections-puzzle" means something different? Arguably that's the confusing aspect of all this... :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 17 at 16:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Quuxplusone The NYT's Connections puzzle is very much a newcomer to the scene. Their puzzle is identical in format (to all intents and purposes) to the connecting wall on the BBC's Only Connect, which has been around since 2008 and which spawned the "connect-wall" tag here. "Connections" as a word is a very good fit for a 'what is the connection' type puzzle - it's just unfortunate for this tag that the NYT chose that name for their puzzle :) The tag details will make it clear either way, but we can look at synonymising it too if it becomes an issue. (Thanks for mentioning it...) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Commented Jan 17 at 18:39

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Thanks to all who provided feedback in comments here or during chats in The Sphinx's Lair. I have (finally) updated the tag description to reflect its most common usage, with specific exclusions for connecting wall and sequence-type puzzles.

As of 5 April 2024 the tag stub now reads:

A puzzle requiring the solver to uncover a hidden connection between several items in one or more lists or sets. For partition-style connecting wall puzzles (à la the BBC's Only Connect or the NYT's 'Connections' puzzle), use [connect-wall] instead. For 'what comes next in this sequence?' puzzles, use [sequence] instead.

Likewise, I have altered the full tag description to the following...


Puzzles revolving around 'connections' usually require the solver to identify a common link or property between several items in a list or set. These 'items' are most commonly words, phrases, numbers, symbols, photographs or other images, or are given in the form of trivia questions whose answers share a particular property.

In some instances the connected items are members of an incomplete set which is missing a single member, and this must be identified by the solver.

Simple examples:

  1. What connects the following phrases? MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK, ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, HONOURS EVEN, JUST WHEN I NEEDED YOU MOST.

All contain hidden numbers, spelled out: MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK, ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, HONOURS EVEN, JUST WHEN I NEEDED YOU MOST.

  1. What is the connection between the following people? Which 21st century US President is missing from the set?
  • The founder of WikiLeaks;
  • The star of Diagnosis Murder;
  • The second wife of Henry VIII;
  • The host of Wacaday.

All share their first names with members of Enid Blyton's Famous Five: JULIAN Assange, DICK Van Dyke, ANNE Boleyn, and TIMMY Mallett. The missing member of the fictional group is George, making the missing US President GEORGE W. Bush.

Exclusions:

  1. 'Connecting wall' type questions, of the sort originally seen in the BBC quiz show Only Connect (first aired 2008) and - more lately - the NYT's 'Connections' puzzle (first published 2023), in which solvers must partition a set of jumbled clues into distinct categories based on shared connections should instead use the tag.

  2. Questions asking 'What comes next in this sequence?' should not generally use the tag, since the tag is designed for this purpose, alongside , or if/as appropriate.


If at some stage the community decides that the tag should be renamed (perhaps to 'connection-puzzle', singular) to avoid continuing confusion with connecting walls since the introduction of the NYT's 'Connections' puzzle, we can discuss a tag name change in a new post.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 (as it now reflects the common usage of it) however I have a question: Since these types of questions seem to require some sort of prior knowledge, should we require posts that have the connections-puzzle to also have the knowledge tag? $\endgroup$
    – CrSb0001
    Commented Apr 5 at 13:28
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks @CrSb0001 - I would say not, because the knowledge tag is intended for "A puzzle whose solution relies on external sources such as tables, dictionaries, Wikipedia, or specifics that may not be common knowledge." The first of my two examples here just revolves around hidden numbers, which definitely falls within the 'common knowledge' category. I say only use it when needed rather than blanket for all. $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Commented Apr 5 at 15:03

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