Have you ever looked at a crossword and thought, “This makes me think, but not as much as I’d like?” Perhaps you played a few KenKen puzzles and considered it not your thing due to the use of numbers? Maybe you started getting into puzzle games with Wordle and want to move on to something new like it. Knotwords combines elements from all three into something that feels distinctly refreshing. It is familiar, but at the same time original. Not to mention it relies on someone being logical and tapping into their vocabulary to succeed.
At its core, Knotwords looks a lot like a crossword and plays a lot like KenKen. There is a grid in front of you. You need to place words into it. Some will cross over into others vertically and/or horizontally, meaning they’ll share letters. Like KenKen, certain squares in the grid are grouped together to form cages. In the upper left corner of the upper left square in a cage, you’ll see all of the letters for that group. Each one can only be used once. Your goal is to use the information available to figure out every word in the puzzle. If you get it right, you see the filled-in word. Enter a wrong answer, and red scribbles show you that it is incorrect. Also, as you fill in letters, the remaining empty squares in a cage will show which remaining letters could fit there.
All Knotwords puzzles require deductive reasoning. For example, a good way to start is to fill in words with only two or three letters. The number of cages and letters available are a good way to narrow down options as well. This lets you lock in a few “guaranteed” words. After that, looking for uncommon letters can help. Have a word with a “Q” in it? You’ll likely need a “U” after it. If you have a five-letter word that already is shown to start with an “O” and end with an “N” and “E,” and see a letter in a cage that is part of it is “Z,” then you’ve got yourself an “ozone.” It can also help if you get a cage that covers a single line. So say you have a row of four squares all in one cage. “O,” “S,” “Y,” and “R” are the options. The word that works is “rosy.”
The hint system is when another crossword element comes into play. When stumped, you can ask the Knotwords rabbit for a clue. You’ll be able to pick a line in the puzzle to get a definition. So in one case, it might say, “Simple past tense and past participle of a four letter word,” then elaborate to explain what that four letter word can be. In this way, even if you are having trouble working out the positions on your own, it takes a more traditional approach from another iconic puzzle. Depending on the mode, you’ll either be limited to a certain number of hints or see each hint used add to your puzzle’s overall time.
What’s convenient is Knotwords is designed to be played both on a daily basis or in longer sessions. When you enter the game, you’ll have Puzzlebooks for the month or Daily Puzzles to choose from. In the May 2022 Puzzlebooks, you’ll have a full month to complete 30 Standard and 30 Tricky challenges. You’ll have 6/6 hints to use in these puzzles, which carry over, and you’ll earn one more hint to replenish used ones after each one. Standard puzzles will feature more typical words, while the Tricky ones will involve words someone might not be immediately familiar with.
As for the dailies, there are Daily Mini, Daily Classic, and Daily Twist options available. All of these rely on a system in which hints add to your total time. The Daily Mini is the shortest, as you might expect. These tend to be easy, and you get one per day. You can even go back and check ones from past days on the calendar, if you missed the seven for the current week. The Daily Classics are slightly larger and more challenging. Again, the calendar lets you go back and select ones you missed.
The Daily Twist is a sprawling puzzle that adds nonogram elements. It is also the most satisfying of all Knotwords puzzles, in my opinion. Along the top and side of the puzzle are numbers. These tell you how many vowels are in that line overall. So you not only have to keep track of the letters in the cages to complete the task, but check to make sure the vowels match too. In a way, this makes things easier for you. You’re being held accountable in an additional way. But at the same time, it can also force you to think a little harder about your choices. Because right away, it can rule out some of the first options that come to mind.
What I love most about Knotwords is sometimes, figuring out the positions of all letters in one cage or one word in a puzzle can cause everything else to fall into place. It’s like you found the right domino and tipped it over, and everything else makes sense when you do. Finishing a puzzle in under a minute with no hints is exhilarating.
Another great thing is Knotwords is accessible. Yes, some puzzles can have longer words. But there are usually tons of smaller words that help you gradually suss out the more complex or unorthodox entries. You can stop and save at any time, then return to the game. If you get a hint, it will be quite detailed. The visual cues to show accidentally repeating a used letter, incorrect entries, highlighted squares, and suggestions are all clear and visible. It is also quite easy to play on a PC, with the natural progression of inputs not requiring you to go back and click each individual square.
In short, Knotwords is clever. It is the kind of game that regularly gives you a reason to return to it. There are minor variations to make it more challenging or accommodate people learning how to play. It’s also rather accessible, in terms of the UI, offering hints, and visibility. It is definitely a game folks who enjoy Wordle, crossword, and KenKen puzzles should check out.