I’ve been doing an Oscar party to celebrate the Academy Awards for about eight years now. Part of the annual tradition is the diabolical word find. I didn’t really set out to torture my friends, it’s really just a happy accident! I guess asking folks to use fine motor skills to locate 30 words in a jumbled mass of letters in a room lit by candles after you’ve been pumping them full of cocktails is really just cruel. I, of course, call it a fun game!
I’ve often been asked how I come up with the word find. It’s really very simple and I’m going to share the method with you. I’ll use my 82nd Academy Awards word find as an example, but (spoiler alert!) I’ll include a link to the one I’ve created for this year. No peeking Heather or you’re not up for the word find prize!
Step 1: Anxiously await the nominations. I do this by going to work and ignoring the whole thing until the PDF version of the ballot has been posted on the Oscars website.
Step 2: Open Excel and create a grid of even sized squares 30 columns by 30 rows. In a column to the right of the grid add the last names of the nominated actors, actresses, supporting actors and actresses and the best picture nominees. It’s even more fun now that they nominate ten movies for best picture. I used to use a 25×25 grid, but *had* to move to 30×30 with more nominees! You probably could fit it in 25×25 but 30×30 just makes it harder for the party goers, which I find fun.
Step 3: Create your puzzle by inserting all the names from the word bank into the grid. I have words that are forwards, backwards, diagonal, diagonal backwards, up and down. Make whatever pattern you like. Connect the names, reuse letters – really, just be as evil as you wish.
Step 4: Highlight the answers. Let’s be honest, I didn’t learn this step the first year, but it makes it super easy for you to check the puzzle on party night. Simply put your answer sheet behind the sheet you’re trying to check and hold it up to the light. You can easily see if your friend has circles around all the darkened squares in the puzzle.
Step 5: Fill in your puzzle. Even with all these words, you’ll still have a lot of room in your puzzle. I usually put in bonus words NOT in the word bank like: Kodak Theater, The Academy, Brad and Angelina, Star, Oscar, the names of previous winners, or any other Oscar word to break up any big blank spaces. In fact you can see in the example below in the first row the words “Kodak Theater”. One year, I gave out a bonus prize to the person who found all the hidden words first. If you think it’s hard with a word bank, just watch your friends struggle with hidden words!
I’ll fill in the rest of the open spaces by using the names in the word bank. Just start typing the name and when you hit a square that already has a letter, skip it and go to the next open square. It generally takes about 2-3 pass throughs of the word bank to fill in all the spaces. This is where the especially cruel part comes in. When you fill in the spaces using this method, you end up getting a lot of “almost, but not quite, right” answers. My friends hate this. I think it’s perfect.
Step 6: Send the puzzle to a friend to check. Again, this is all school of hard knocks people. One year when I was filling in the extra letters, I accidentally overwrote a letter in DiCaprio. I had people working on the puzzle for like 40 minutes before we realized the problem! Never again! My best friend KK lives out of state and can never attend the party so she is the perfect puzzle checker. Of course, she knows my methods and can finish one of my puzzles in about 15 minutes – I challenge you to match that time!
Step 7: Print puzzle sheets and an answer sheet and have fun!
I can’t wait to hear how this game works out for you at your Oscar party! And just in case you didn’t feel like making your own word find for the 83rd Academy Awards, I’ve already done it for you Word Find 2011. If you’re not having a party, kick back a cosmo, dim the lights and see if you can beat KK’s puzzle time. Good Luck!