There’s a Puzzle for That

Reinventing Crickler with a Long Tail Approach. How we met the demand for a wide range of crossword puzzle topics.

Reinventing Crickler with a Long Tail Approach

Crickler 2: Daily Word Puzzleis a word puzzle game that implements adaptive crosswords to make things more interesting for players.  

Questions and answers sit side by side.  Letters are ‘shared’ between answers so when players solve questions, they effectively get small hints to solve the remaining puzzles.

Like this:

In the Beginning...

In 2011, we launched the game with a daily news puzzle, vocabulary and a few trivia puzzles. Crickler for iPhone was the result of more than seven years of intense negotiations and development.

Crickler had rabid fans but we felt that if we had more puzzles, players would be much happier.  Since this was a content model (puzzle credits expended when puzzles are played) we decided to updated the game as a full-featured sequel, creating new categories and subcategories as an “intelligent directory.”  The game would take care of what puzzles players have started and/or solved.

Everyone at PlayScreen felt that users would be more likely to be fully engaged if we added brand-new current events and a trivia puzzles on a mainstream topics every day. We saw it as the easiest way to broaden the scope of the game and reach a bigger audience.  Well the truth turned out to be a little different :)

Here is the distribution of puzzles played (as a percentage of all puzzles) for a given month:

The top puzzle, “Disney Heroines and Princesses!,” had only 2.26 percent of all plays.  The fan-submitted puzzle on the game  “Fossil Fighters Champions” only had 0.01percent, but it was still played by users (thanks to the author, London Willson).

Out of more than 500 puzzles, the top ten puzzles played 16 percent of the time, the 11 to 20 were almost 10 percent, the 21 to 30 a bit over 8 percent -- which left 66 percent of the puzzle plays as “everything else.”

How could we possibly (and profitably) fill this long-tail demand?

The Power of User-generated Content

The solution was to allow fans to email us puzzles.  Doing so is easy: they only have to come up with a series of questions and answers.  We would check for appropriateness and convert them into Crickler crosswords.

That worked well for us, but then we realized that some of the fan submitted puzzles would hit the top-ten of plays for a given day. So to make it REALLY fun, we turned it into a contest.  We started awarding iTunes gifts for the most popular puzzles and the most puzzles submitted in a week.

Here are some examples of these user-generated puzzles:
Crickler as a Channel

The next step was to strike a deal with Twitter-native UberFacts, an extremely popular Twitter feed with “the most unimportant things that you’ll never need to know” trivialities. This partnership gave UberFacts’ fans a way to fully engage with the content.  UberFacts is now benefiting from being featured in a highly-rated iPhone app as well. Everyone wins!

Our goal now is to expand to major brands.  Car companies, electronics giants, TV shows, charities and beyond. Thanks to the Long Tail, Crickler now always has a Puzzle For That -- health, trivia, cars, you name it. If it can be broken down to a series of questions and answers, it can become a puzzle in Crickler.




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