Word search seems like the kind of puzzle that has been around for ages. In fact, word search as we know it was introduced in the 1960s. It seems that it appeared in Spain and the United States at about the same time, probably created independently.
Spanish Soup of Letters
Pedro Ocón de Oro was a prolific Spanish puzzle writer. He designed over 125 different types of puzzles, but his most famous contribution is a puzzle known as Sopa de Letras, or Soup of Letters. Published sometime in the 1960’s, these puzzles were recognizable as the type of word search we love today.
English Word Search
We can put a definite date on the publication of the first English-language word search puzzle. On March 1, 1968, Norman E. Gibat of Norman, Oklahoma included a word search in his small publication, the Selenby Digest. The puzzle was a 20×20 grid with the names of 34 Oklahoma cities overlapping vertically, horizontally, and diagonally.
Word Search Goes Viral
Once Gibat published his first puzzle, word of the word search spread fast! Local teachers soon realized that word searches could be used as fun educational tools and introduced the puzzles into schools. Before long, word search spread from the heartland to the rest of the United States. Word searches are now popular around the world, especially with languages that use the Latin alphabet.