Google box is a crossword puzzle today

December 20, 2013 • 2:55 pm

Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the crossword puzzle, but if you go to Google today, you’ll see this:

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Which, if you click on it, turns into this:

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And you can use your keyboard to fill in the puzzle.

I’ve never been much interested in crosswords, and when I try I’m lousy at them, but some of my friends are addicts, thriving on solving the Saturday New York Times puzzle. According to Aisha Harris at Slate, this one is a bit easier:

Earlier this week I spoke with the people behind the project. The doodle team worked on the idea for a bit earlier this year, but the project was shelved when there was not enough interest among doodle staff. Their minds were changed when Google programmer and crossword enthusiast Tom Tabanao, a consultant in the project’s early stages, asked a colleague what he could do to help get it going again. When she suggested that he create a demo to drum up interest, he revealed that he’d already made one that was ready to go.

They eventually decided that a “legitimate crossword constructor” should be brought on board to help design the doodle, and Tabanao’s first choice was Merl Reagle, long-time creator of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Sunday puzzle. Reagle “appeals to a broad audience,” Tabanao told me. “You know there are some edgier constructors, there’s some constructors that do kind of crazy things with unusual letters … but it seemed like a good fit between Merle’s audience and Google’s audience.”

The goal, Reagle explained, was to make a “populist puzzle” that most people could solve, with ideas that would have “some sort of visual angle” after they were revealed. Reagle created the puzzle, Tabanao, who served as the lead engineer, offered some feedback, and then the rest of the Google team, including lead artist Brian Kaas, took over.

Knock yourself out. The Slate piece also gives a bit of history, including the fact that it was supposed to be called “word-cross,” but was changed in error by a typographer.

45 thoughts on “Google box is a crossword puzzle today

    1. Hear, hear.

      Perfection is achieved if you do said crossword in a coffee shop, near the fireplace, with a hot caffeinated beverage and something from the bakery.

      Good times.

      1. Agreed. Whenever my significant other’s in town (she travels a lot), our standard Sunday morning ritual is to go to our favorite coffee shop and solve both the LA Times and the NY Times crosswords. It usually takes both of us.

  1. I can’t do puzzles of any kind. An average eight year old could beat me at Scrabble. It would seem that I was born with a strictly linear mind. I’m always bothered by (mostly anecdotal, I like to think) reports that people who do a lot of puzzles are somehow protected from dementia. I worry that it isn’t the doing, but the disposition, in which case I’m doomed.

    1. Don’t worry, the evidence is that it’s the doing of the puzzles that staves off the onset of dementia. If you can’t do puzzles to achieve this, learning a language or how to play a new instrument is also effective. Have fun!

    2. I’m not puzzle or crossword puzzle fan either. I think it’s for the same reason I don’t like play Tetris – it’s obsessive & becomes unpleasant. Doing crosswords feels like the time I had that ABBA song in my head for a week.

      It makes me feel a little daft though. Damn, I used that “aluminium filled” deodorant all my life too and lived on a highway when there was lead in gas. I’m doomed. I’m going to get lost in the woods & wear too many dresses for sure.

  2. Goddamit, Australia doesn’t have the crossword, and even when I click on links that supposedly go it, it isn’t there. Sigh, maybe tomorrow.

      1. Here in the UK we have some hands knitting a scarf/glove thing and a Happy Solstice greeting. So Happy Solstice everybody.

    1. You can subscribe to the Telegraph crossword online. It is usually available here, but they seem to have problems just now. When working, you can complete it online for a monthly subscription of £5 – much less than the cost of buying a paper every day.

      1. Yeah, I didn’t see it in Canada either and even when I went to I didn’t see it, which is weird.

  3. Please, anyone who has finished the puzzle, tell me if finishing it online gives some bonus picture or something — I have a keyboard missing “O” and “L” and the tricks I use to insert them in my words, as I do here, don’t work on the google doodle. So I can solve it with paper and pen (that is, I can fill it in and assume I haven’t goofed) but I’ll be burning with curiosity as to whether I’m missing anything in the the doodle.

    1. No, Hotshoe, it just sits there. I was disappointed.

      Meanwhile: Is your misbehaving keyboard attached to a desktop machine? A replacement keyboard is pretty cheap. If it’s a laptop, you can attach that same replacement keyboard to it and use it instead of the built-in keyboard.

  4. Not that it’s got anything to do with crosswords, other than being vaguely geekish, but I found today’s XKCD curiously poignant.

    Strangers who have become acquaintances, meeting on an unknown server which is still up, somewhere in cyberspace.

    It reminds me of all the acquaintances I’ve made (under various pseudonyms) under a variety of BBS’s and mailing lists over the years, and lost touch with.

  5. I agree with Diane. Cryptic crosswords are an obsession in the UK – many of the more elaborate ones have themes integral to their solution. For a flavour of this arcane world, visit blogs such as (terrifying to the uninitiated) and (much more accessible).

    For those afflicted with the cryptic crossword bug, here’s one with a relevant molecular biological theme: It’s coupled to an appeal on behalf of Syrian war victims.

    It’s possible to pick up the twisted grammar of cryptic crosswords by trial and error, but it takes years to achieve proficiency. It makes more sense to learn from a book, of which there are many. “How to Master The Times Crossword” by Tim Moorey is one of the better ones. Go on, give them a try.

    1. No thanks.
      The heavy expectation of wordplay and wit just makes them all fall flat, like over-beaten cake.

      I’ll stick with the better American style. When you get a good editor – say, Will Shortz or Merle Reagle – the puzzles have enough charm to be worth doing, without feeling depressed at how hard the writer had to work to get their effects.

      1. Have you tried the American variety? I find them a nice compromise–nowhere as esoteric as the Brit ones, just enough to enjoy the cleverness.

  6. The Google crossword is rather a simple one, but I do love crossword puzzles. In my case it is even worse than that. What I really love is a DIAGRAMLESS crossword. You have the clues and the size of the puzzle (X*Y), but no numbers or black squares printed on it. You have to figure those out on your own. For me, it adds a wonderful new dimension to the puzzle.

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