Word Search Rules and Info

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Example Word Search and solution

Rules: Locate the given words in the grid, running in one of eight possible directions horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.

Answer String: Varies by puzzle. There may be an unused word or a message hidden another way to discover related to the puzzle. Enter this word/message, in ALL CAPS and without spaces or other punctuation. This example has the key “CERES”.

(Brief) History of Word Searches: Descended from observational puzzles. The American word search was first published in 1968 in the Selenby Digest in Norman, Oklahoma. The original creator was Norman E. Gibat. (Note: puzzles in Spanish called “Sopas de letras”/”Soup of Letters” were created earlier but were unlikely to have influenced Gibat.) The idea circulated slowly until finally picked up by some newspaper syndicators. Word Searches are now in most major newspapers and puzzle magazines.

History of this example: This planetary word search was written for a puzzle seminar by Thomas Snyder soon after the demotion of “Pluto” as a planet.

Other sources: More Word Search puzzles can be found from a variety of sources, including some future publications from Grandmaster Puzzles.

Design rules for contributors: A Grandmaster Word Search will have a unique solution that can be reached by observation alone. Words should be interlinked (cross at letters) and a large majority of the letters in the grid should be crossed by words. The words should be linked thematically, although the word list need not be provided. Standard variations, including missing letters, rebus clues, or bending words, are also encouraged.

  • Michelle Renwick Wilson says:

    What about a word within a word? Today’s puzzle had ADRIFT and DRIFT. I couldn’t find the words separately. Is it OK to use one word for two different words?

    • Avatar photo drsudoku says:

      Generally speaking, words should never overlap completely; generally speaking, similar words should not appear in the same puzzle anyway. But what we say generally should be true won’t be followed by all puzzle providers.

  • Word Search Lover says:

    I was absolutely disgusted when I had a wordsearch word backwards, this is a breach of the British crossword rules and I am flabergasted that some idiot could do this to my favourite hobby. I am so angry I think that I am going to write a letter of complaint to the company, cable educational ltd, I am so angry. I would like to hear your thoughts

  • Susan Smith says:

    We created a puzzle for saying hello in many different languages. Should we include the accent marks in the word list and/or puzzle?

    • Avatar photo drsudoku says:

      There are no “rules” for that kind of formatting choice, but my recommendation is that if you do use the accent marks in the word lists, then you also use the symbols in the puzzle and have separate meanings for e, é, …, so a regular e and an accented é are distinct characters in the grid.

  • Rita says:

    Must they be single word answers?

    • Avatar photo drsudoku says:

      Anything that can be given in a word list is fair game as long as it is clear how a multi-word phrase if put in the grid. For instance, I’ve seen full names used either as one long string (e.g., “GEORGEWASHINGTON”) or as separate words (“GEORGE” and “WASHINGTON” as two separate entries).

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