Being a relatively simple concept at its core, one might think that the word search has existed in some form for many years. Yet that’s not actually the case, as word searches are less than 50 years old, and came about well after the creation of several other popular word-related games such as crossword puzzles and scrabble.
The man credited with creating the first word search is Norman Gibat, who published them in a small local paper in Normal, Oklahoma devoted to classified listings called the Selenby Digest. The word searches instantly caught on, and soon local teachers were requesting additional copies as activities for their students. Before long they were sending them to other teachers outside their district, and word searches eventually became syndicated, appearing in newspapers around the world.
Online word searches are now plentiful, and can be tackled in any manner of different formats, from the smallest boards typical of newspapers or children’s publications, to the most gargantuan, housing dozens of words hidden amongst hundreds of letters. Some puzzles may only place words in forward positions, some only vertically and horizontally, while others also place them backwards and diagonally. In some puzzles the words will not overlap each other, meaning each letter us only used for one word or none at all, while others do overlap.
Many different puzzle-based websites also have word search maker tools, which allow people to design their own puzzles. They can determine which words must be searched for, whether or not the words can overlap each other on the board, how large the board is, and other aspects related to the layout and design of the puzzle.
Over the years, several variations to the traditional puzzles have appeared. One popular variation has a hidden clue or series of words left over from the letters that were unused in the puzzle. These letters may appear in order from top to bottom, left to right, or they may have to be decoded with the use of a trivia question or hint.
Another variation changes the way in which you search for words. Instead of the words being aligned in a straight line, the letters of the word can jut off of each other in any of the 8 directions. This makes the clues far more difficult to spot by scanning for whole words, and requires a more methodical approach be employed. This format is preferred by some players, while others enjoy the process of searching for whole words, with or without the knowledge of which words must be searched for.
Word searches have always proven appealing to kids, and kids word searches do a great job of engaging their minds, teaching them new words, and in the case of topical word puzzles, showing them how different concepts and things are all interconnected. Yet whether young or old, word clue searches are a stress free and enjoyable way to pass the time.