At first glance, it may not sound like creating a crossword puzzle in augmented reality has much value, but The New York Times has managed to renew the pastime as an immersive game.
On Tuesday, the media company published its mini crossword puzzle on December 22 via the Spark AR platform for Instagram as Shattered Crossword.
Instead of viewing the puzzle in AR and filling in the blanks, the potential letters are shattered and scattered in the space above the puzzle, with the pieces of letters for the correct answer colored yellow.
Players then have to change their perspective using a combination of walking around, crouching and manipulating the puzzle with on-screen gestures to recombine the letters. After solving a rule, the user can tap the puzzle to proceed to the next clue.
You can try out the game for yourself via Instagram for iOS or Android by going to @NYTimes on Instagram and going to the Effects tab. Once there, you can search the effects gallery for Shattered Crossword, or find the puzzle by following this link to the effect.
The experience is reminiscent of Puzzlar, the AR game for smartphones and headsets that also took advantage of the player’s perspective when solving puzzles.
The Times has been a leader in AR innovation since the introduction of its AR news articles in 2018, although the frequency of those stories has declined since then. The publisher was also an early adopter of Magic Leap and partnered with Google to pre-publish an AR print ad Strange things via Google Lens.
Can we expect to find the Daily Mini on Instagram in the future? Probably not, but it’s a nice proof-of-concept, and also a reminder that you can solve these puzzles every day via The New York Times Crossword puzzle app for iOS and Android.