Crow's father, sister and mother, pose with him and his son and wife in front of his word search.
Mel Crow invested 10 years in creating the ultimate in hobbyist puzzles, filled with 51,000 letters and over 5,500 words, and was recognized in the 2013 Guinness Book of World Records for producing "The Largest Published Word Search Puzzle."
"It started with me doing a really small word search I had found in a cereal box," Crow says. "I thought, 'What would happen if you had a word search so big that you couldn't look at the whole thing at the same time?' Then I wondered if I could create the largest one in the world."
Crow began by designing a very large word search in Adobe Illustrator, creating a left-to-right, top-to-bottom numbered grid and adding the letters. As he added to it, he recorded each word and its numerical placement on a separate document. The eventual puzzle is an accumulation of eight sections consisting of 204 columns and 250 rows. The printed version stands 6-foot-tall and three-foot-wide.
The previous record holder, Rackspace Hosting Inc., a Texas Internet cloud hosting company, compiled a list of 3,999 words in 2008. "When I had heard about it, I realized my unfinished puzzle was already larger than the record holder. I just had to finish it and get it official," Crow says.
While he did take breaks spanning months, like when he was newly married or when each of his children were born, he would incrementally expand the size and word count, keeping sight of his goal. "It was an overwhelming project to do just by myself," Crow says. "I would get discouraged at the massive size of it, put it aside, and then later become motivated again at the thought of breaking a world record, and I'd keep working at it. I wasn't in a hurry. It was a gradual thing."
Crow says he doesn't believe anyone will ever find all of the words in his puzzle, just based on the sheer size. But the 5,500 words are all there, mapped out logistically on his master copy.
Word search lovers can order a print version for $15, or a digital copy for $8.99, as well as the numerical co-ordinance list (answer key) for $40. For more, visit Crow's website at giantwordsearch.com.