A word search
, word find
, word seek
, word sleuth
or mystery word puzzle
A puzzle is a problem or enigma that tests the ingenuity of the solver. In a basic puzzle, one is intended to put together pieces in a logical way in order to come up with the desired solution...
is a word game that is letters of a word in a grid, that usually has a rectangular or square shape. The objective of this puzzle is to find and mark all the words hidden inside the box. The words may be horizontally, vertically or diagonally. Often a list of the hidden words is provided, but more challenging puzzles may let the player figure them out. Many word search puzzles have a theme to which all the hidden words are related. The puzzles have, like crosswords and arrowords, have been very popular in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...
, and - also in common with these latter puzzles - have had complete magazines devoted to them.
Word searches are commonly found in daily newspaper
A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...
s and puzzle books. Some teachers use them as educational tools for children, the benefit being that young minds can learn new words and their spellings by intensively searching for them, letter by letter, in the puzzle.
The puzzle grid may be represented instead as a string of characters in versions of the game designed for text messaging, or SMS
SMS is a form of text messaging communication on phones and mobile phones. The terms SMS or sms may also refer to:- Computer hardware :...
, on mobile devices, particularly cell phones. In this case, the object may be to only find one word or a few words hidden among the character string. The hidden word(s) may be presented backwards more frequently than in the traditional word search puzzle as it is impossible to arrange them diagonally or vertically. A clue to assist the player in finding the hidden word(s) may be provided, as well.
A common strategy for finding all the words is to go through the puzzle left to right (or vice versa) and look for the first letter of the word (if a word list is provided). After finding the letter, one should look at the eight surrounding letters to see whether the next letter of the word is there. One can then continue this method until the entire word is found.
Another strategy is to look for 'outstanding' letters within the word one is searching for (if a word list is provided). Since most word searches use capital letters, it is easiest to spot the letters that stand out from others. These letters are Q, O, U, X, and Z.
Lastly, the strategy of looking for double letters in the word being searched for (if a word list is provided) proves helpful, because it is easier to spot two identical side-by-side letters among a large grid of random letters.
If a word list is not provided, a way to find words is to go row by row. First, all the horizontal rows should be read both backwards and forwards, then the vertical, and so on.
Sometimes the puzzle itself will help. The puzzles generated by a computer tend to put words in patterns. Furthermore, the bigger the words and the more words, the easier they are to spot. In some computer-generated puzzles, if the person solving the puzzle sees one word, all they have to do to find more is to look in adjacent rows, columns, or diagonals. The puzzle might use every row, column, or diagonal—or just every other row, column, or diagonal.
The word search puzzle (also known as WordSeek, WordFind, WonderWord, etc.) was originally designed and published by Norman E. Gibat in the Selenby Digest on March 1, 1968 in Norman
Norman is a city in Cleveland County, Oklahoma, United States, and is located south of downtown Oklahoma City. It is part of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, Norman was to have 110,925 full-time residents, making it the third-largest city in Oklahoma and the...
Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...
, although the Spanish
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...
puzzle creator Pedro Ocón de Oro was publishing "Sopas de letras" (Spanish "Soup of Letters") before that date.
Selenby was a small want-ad digest distributed free at Safeway
Safeway Inc. , a Fortune 500 company, is North America's second largest supermarket chain after The Kroger Co., with, as of December 2010, 1,694 stores located throughout the western and central United States and western Canada. It also operates some stores in the Mid-Atlantic region of the Eastern...
and other stores in the town. The original page size is 8.5 by 5.5 inches.
The puzzle was very popular locally and several more followed this original. Some teachers in the Norman schools asked for reprints to use in their classes. One teacher sent them around the country to various friends in other schools. Undoubtedly one of these scattered copies eventually led somebody to sell the idea to a syndicator.
Sometimes secret messages are hidden in the word search. In one variation, the secret message is created by all the words that are written backwards in the puzzle. In another variation, the secret message is created by the letters that are not used in any word within the puzzle. This variation is more common in more difficult puzzles where most letters are used. Kappa Publishing is well known for this. They Magazines are called " The Magazine with the Last Message" or other saying that is related.
Another type of word search puzzle contains a trivia question at the bottom. Like a traditional word search puzzle, words from a word list must be circled or crossed through in the puzzle. There is also one or more extra word or phrase hidden in the puzzle that is not in the word list. This word or phrase usually answers the trivia question at the bottom of the page.
Some word search puzzles are snaking puzzles
, in which the word is not a straight horizontal,or diagonal line, but "bends" at 90 degrees at any given letter. These are much more difficult than conventional puzzles.