Google box is a crossword puzzle today

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

Screen shot 2013-12-20 at 3.47.13 PM

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

Screen shot 2013-12-20 at 3.46.51 PM

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.


  1. James Walker
    Posted December 20, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Thank you! The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle is one of the pleasures of this universe.

    • Posted December 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      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.

      • Pete Moulton
        Posted December 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        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.

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 20, 2013 at 9:51 pm | Permalink


        • Posted December 20, 2013 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

          For one glorious month immediately after I finished graduate school and before I landed a job that was my and my (future) wife’s near daily ritual.

      • Posted December 21, 2013 at 5:07 am | Permalink


  2. Ken Pidcock
    Posted December 20, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    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.

    • Marella
      Posted December 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      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!

      • Posted December 21, 2013 at 5:04 am | Permalink

        I read that physical exercise and eating stuff like spinach, kale, beans, broccoli, nuts, fish of course, etc. help a lot.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 20, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      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.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 20, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

        Oh and look at all the mistakes in that post! For sure it’s early onset dementia!

      • Posted December 21, 2013 at 5:01 am | Permalink

        Looks like there’s a link between Alzheimer’s and ingesting too much nitrates and nitrites in prepared/processed foods too, like deli meats. I saw a recent science documentary that confirmed the earlier findings shown here (I wish I had noted down the name of the documentary):

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 21, 2013 at 7:14 am | Permalink

          Good thing I stay away from processed meats then – I worry they trigger migraines.

  3. Marella
    Posted December 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    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.

    • Lynn A. (Ottawa)
      Posted December 20, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      Ditto for Canada😦

      • Adrian
        Posted December 21, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

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

        • Adrian
          Posted December 21, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

          AArgh! I meant to type the message is “The first day of Winter”. I must read before I submit.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted December 21, 2013 at 4:27 am | Permalink

      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.

    • Latverian Diplomat
      Posted December 21, 2013 at 4:59 am | Permalink

      Try this.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 21, 2013 at 7:14 am | Permalink

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

      • Marella
        Posted December 21, 2013 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

        Yay! Thx.

        • Latverian Diplomat
          Posted December 22, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

          You’re welcome. Enjoy.

  4. Dermot C
    Posted December 20, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    HIJKLMNO (5 letters); not mine, but I like it.

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 20, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Permalink


    • Posted December 20, 2013 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

      Ha! That is a good one.

  5. Woof
    Posted December 20, 2013 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    May we discuss the clues here, Ceiling Cat?

    • Posted December 20, 2013 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

      Yes, of course.

      • Woof
        Posted December 20, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink


        OK… 16 across: Discuss. Do viruses count?

        • hotshoe
          Posted December 20, 2013 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

          I guess they must.🙂

          I did assume the “other” answer until I crossed it with the down clue.

  6. hotshoe
    Posted December 20, 2013 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    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.

    • Woof
      Posted December 20, 2013 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      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.

    • johnpieret
      Posted December 20, 2013 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      It will tell you if you have (presumably) successfully completed it and the time it took you (17:33 here).

      • Woof
        Posted December 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

        OOPS, my bad. I had finished it, I just hadn’t finished it RIGHT. Changed 2 characters and TA-DA!

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 20, 2013 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

        14 & something for me. Would have been much faster had I been working in pen.

  7. Diane G.
    Posted December 20, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Once you learn to do cryptic crosswords, such as the one at the following link, ordinary ones are too boring.

  8. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted December 21, 2013 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    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.

  9. Nullman
    Posted December 21, 2013 at 3:43 am | Permalink

    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.

    • hotshoe
      Posted December 22, 2013 at 1:52 am | Permalink

      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.

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 22, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        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.

  10. Jesper Both Pedersen
    Posted December 21, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    Today’s google doodle in danish is celebrating winter solstice.

    Not bad…

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 21, 2013 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      Yeah, in Canada too with animated knitting hands.

      • Jesper Both Pedersen
        Posted December 21, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

        If only they’d wait until tuesday to celebrate it…that would ruffle some feathers.🙂

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 21, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink


  11. Mobius
    Posted December 21, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    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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