The New York Times Reinvents the Crossword Puzzle for Augmented Reality via Instagram

At first glance, it may not sound like there’s much value in doing a crossword puzzle in augmented reality, but The New York Times has managed to revamp the pastime as an immersive game.

On Tuesday, the media company published its December 22 mini-crossword puzzle via the Spark AR platform for Instagram as Shattered Crossword.

Rather than view the puzzle in AR and fill in the blanks, the potential letters are splintered and scattered about in the space above the puzzle, with the pieces of letters for the correct answer colored yellow.

Players must then change their perspective, by some combination of walking around, crouching down, and manipulating the puzzle with on-screen gestures, to recombine the letters. After solving a line, the user can tap on the puzzle to proceed to the next clue.

Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

You can try out the game for yourself via Instagram for iOS or Android by navigating to the @NYTimes on Instagram and accessing 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 leveraged player perspective in solving puzzles.

Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

The Times has been a leader in AR innovation since debuting its AR news features in 2018, although the frequency of those stories has dropped off since then. The publisher was also an early adopter with Magic Leap and partnered with Google to publish an AR-enabled print ad for Stranger Things via Google Lens.

Can we expect to find the Daily Mini on Instagram going forward? Not likely, but it’s a fun proof-of-concept, as well a reminder that you can tackle these puzzles on every day via The New York Times Crossword app for iOS and Android.

Cover image via Tommy Palladino/Next Reality