Mel Crow didn’t really enjoy word search puzzles but found himself picking one up to reduce his boredom at work one day. He completed it within minutes. Feeling unchallenged, Mel imagined creating a word search that was too big to look at at one time.
Over 10 years later, on Jan. 18, 2013, Crow officially set the Guinness World Record for creating the world’s largest word search puzzle.
“I thought, ‘That would be cool. I wonder if I can make the biggest one in the whole world.'” Crow said. “And that’s where it all started.”
Crow began his giant word search puzzle by making a huge grid using Adobe Illustrator and Microsoft Word. He numbered it from left to right and top to bottom and expanded from there. He would print the puzzle out, sections at a time, and find the words on paper.
Crow, a 40-year-old husband and father from American Fork, treated his puzzle as a hobby. It took him over 10 years to finish, as he would often step away for months at a time to focus on his family of a wife and two kids, along with his job as a graphic designer.
“Don’t think I worked on it the whole time,” Mel said. “It was such an overwhelming project.”
Crow’s friends and colleagues didn’t understand why Crow spent so much time working on the word search puzzle.
“People would think I was totally nuts,” Crow said. “They would ask, ‘Are you out of your mind? Do you have a life?’ and they think this is all I ever do, but it’s just a hobby.”
Crow’s mother, Nellie, was always a source of encouragement as he worked on his word search puzzle.
“It was like when he was young and he went on a walk-a-thon,” she said. “I told him that I didn’t care if he came in last as long as he finished. I felt the same way with this word search.”
Mel Crow met and married his wife, Malinda, six years after he began his word search project. It wasn’t until after they were married that Malinda learned about the puzzle.
“He brought out this great big word search and was telling me about it, and I said, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool. Do you think you’ll ever finish it?'” Malinda Crow said.
While Mel Crow was still working on the puzzle, the Guinness World Record for a giant word search puzzle was set in 2010 by a company in Texas that had a puzzle with 4,000 words in it. This new record, along with his wife’s encouragement to stop expanding the puzzle and focus on completing it, pushed Mel Crow to finish sooner rather than later.
“I had to tell him to stop adding onto it,” Malinda Crow said. “He was giving himself more work.”
Mel Crow completed most of the work of the puzzle on his own but had his wife and mother assist him by checking his answers. The three of them used a digital version of the puzzle on an iPad to make it easier to keep track of the words and make corrections.
Mel, Malinda and Nellie Crow spent two months double checking his work. They compared Crow’s answers to the actual puzzle to make sure all words were spelled correctly and in the right spots.
With 204 columns and 250 rows, the finished puzzle contains over 5,500 words and phrases and is divided into different categories such as fruits and vegetables, phobias, prescriptions drugs, states, famous actors and actresses, etc.
Mel Crow wanted his words to pose as a challenge for those working on the puzzle.
“I didn’t want to put in dumb, four-letter words,” he said. “Most of the words are huge, bigger than words you would find in the average word search.”
Despite the years of tedious work, Mel Crow feels great about setting a world record.
“I know someone will break this world record, but at least I can go to my grave saying that I’ve accomplished something,” he said. “The world is a really big place. There are a lot of people in the world, and to think I’ve done something that no one in the world has done, that’s pretty cool.”
The printed version of the puzzle stands six feet tall and three feet wide and currently hangs at the Crow home in American Fork. The puzzle is available for purchase as a digital download at giantwordsearch.com.