For 25 years, I’ve held a long, deep-seated grudge against the New York Times Crossword puzzle. It started when a family friend gifted me a daily calendar of NYT Crossword puzzles because I was a “smart kid.” I don’t know what possessed this woman to think a 7-year-old would enjoy the NYT Crossword—a puzzle famed for its difficulty—but no matter how many I attempted, my puny child brain was unable to solve a single clue.
So, when I saw that the New York Times had created a “Shattered Crossword” AR game on Instagram, I shuddered.
Still, I will do anything for the blog, and everyone’s always yammering on about facing your childhood traumas straight-on to heal. Perhaps, since Engadget noted the game was “too simple” for crossword aficionados, it would perhaps be at a level where I could finally, finally succeed. I headed on over to the New York Times’ Instagram account, swiped through its Stories, and found the link to this particular filter effect.
So far, so good. When you open up the game, you’re directed to find a flat surface. Easy enough. My apartment has plenty of flat surfaces. Except it was never quite so clear what kind of flat surface the New York Times wanted me to use. Like, a table? My TV screen? A wall? I then swiped through the instructions, which explain that the clue in the crossword had “shattered.” To figure it out, you have to shift your perspective and rotate the broken word so that it’s once again whole.
This is where everything fell apart.
On my first attempt, my clue was a five-letter word for “expert quip.” The broken word was an indiscriminate mess of yellow. No amount of pinching and rotating the screen did anything. Just in case I misunderstood, I began putting my yoga skills to work, back bending and contorting my body like Neo dodging bullets in the Matrix. My hope was that doing so would shift my view of the crossword puzzle itself. It did not move. Instead, my dog gave me her best stank eye, and my husband asked, “What the hell are you doing? Are you OK?”
No. I was clearly not OK.
I reasoned my first attempt was botched due to me picking an insufficient flat surface. This time, I picked my TV screen instead of my desk. Huzzah! The puzzle was a little more visible, and this time, I clearly saw the word CLAP explode into a bunch of jagged yellow shards. I was a bit miffed. Why was the NYT giving me the answer? Whatever. At least I knew what word I was supposed to form.
Except, no matter which way I rotated the word, CLAP would not appear. I raised my arms above my head. I pinched. I swiped. I rotated. I could see the vague shape of the word CLAP, particularly the L and the A. But alas, I was foiled. I tried switching to a different clue, except the broken word did not shift.
On my third try, the crossword was so tiny and, for reasons unknown, I couldn’t zoom in to make it bigger. Fail. The closest I got was on my fourth try, but even standing atop my chair with my phone held high above my head, I couldn’t get this godforsaken word to appear.
I know when I’ve been beaten, and this finicky, not-particularly-well-designed crossword had bested me. Worse yet, I failed to rid myself of my irrational resentment toward crossword puzzles. No. Instead, I stand here, with some mild back pain, and my hatred of the New York Times Crossword puzzle has never burned brighter.