AMERICAN FORK — For the past 10 years Mel Crow of American Fork has worked off and on to create the world’s largest word search, and in March it became officially recognized by the Guinness World Records.
The word search contains 5,500 words, including 51,000 letters arranged in 204 columns and 250 rows. The full print is 10 feet wide and 15.5 feet long. Crow has also included 200 secret words in the puzzle, including the names of his family members. Although Crow is passionate about his project, he had never planned to work on it for 10 years.
Crow first had the idea after completing a tiny word search one day when he was bored at work.
“I finished it and thought, ‘Well, that was pretty lame,’” Crow said. “I then thought, 'Well, what would happen if you had a word search that was so big, you could not look at the whole thing at the same time; you would have to literally turn your head, and when you did, it would cause you to lose the words?' It would be so big that it could be out of your field of view. So I thought, ‘I wonder if I can make that?’”
During the time Crow was contemplating his next project, one of his nieces was fascinated by the Guinness World Records.
“Every time I went over there, she’d show them to me,” Crow said. “I thought, ‘I’d be the coolest uncle in the world if I could break a world record! And since I can’t do what Michael Phelps does, maybe I could do this.’ So I started putting it together, and it got bigger and bigger and bigger; it was just a really big project.”
In 2003 he officially started to create the search. Although he always wanted to finish, other important life events occurred along the way, such as marriage and the birth of his first child. But whenever he had the chance, Crow would go back to the word search.
“It was such an overwhelming project,” Crow said. “I would get frustrated and put it away, and then six months later I would think, ‘You know, I’ve got to finish that.’ I would pull it out again and work on it for a couple months. It was such a long task to do all by myself."
Organizing the puzzle came pretty easily. As a graphic designer, he has worked on similar projects. Using his skills, Crow incorporated coordinates within the search that allowed him to keep track of every word.
“I set up this humongous grid and numbered it,” Crow said. “I started adding words there, and every time I’d add a word I’d keep track of where it was. When that grid got full of words I’d add another section and do the same thing. It ended up having eight sections, so it is really huge.”
As Crow began to consider what words to include, he decided that if it was going to be the biggest word search, he should include some of the longest words in the English dictionary.
Half of the words listed in the search are randomly selected from the dictionary, while the other half are grouped into categories. Such categories include famous actors and actresses, countries, state capitals, all of the presidents of the United States, types of phobias, types of medicine, bones in the human body, muscles in the human body, types of bread, types of animals, types of meat and types of cars.
Just the process of finding different words was a learning experience for Crow.
"I'm not a very good speller, so I had to make sure some of these big words were spelled right. Plus I had to do some reasearch," Crow said. "I learned all kinds of neat stuff."
From a religious standpoint, Crow, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also included the names of many world religions and books in the Holy Bible, as well as characters from the Book of Mormon.
Once his word search was complete, Crow contacted the Guinness World Records and received a packet of requirements he had to complete. According to Crow, the hardest requirement was to get his work officially published. But after searching through many publishers, Crow was able to complete the requirement. Two city officials were also required to be in attendance when he unveiled his work. His record-breaking attempt took place in January and was officially recognized in March.
Crow's word search was much larger than the previous record-holder, and he hopes his will remain the record holder for some time. Copies of the word search can be purchased on Crow's website, although he is confident that no one will be able to complete it.
"You know how some people start looking for one word first, well in my opinion you can't take a word from the list of words and start finding it in the word search, you would go nuts," Crow said. "What you'd have to do is look at the word search and start crossing off the list. But eventually, you'll just have 200 words left — that would drive me batty, it's just too huge."