The unwritten law of crossword puzzles states that you may not seek help from the Internet, but such behavior is actually encouraged in a new game from Google and the New York Times.
A Google a Day will debut in Tuesday's print edition of the New York Times, right above the crossword puzzle. It asks a single trivia question per day, getting progressively harder throughout the week, and points users to agoogleaday.com to search for answers. The Website features a stripped-down version of Google's main search engine, excluding potential spoilers such as real-time search.
The questions require a bit of logic in addition to a finely-tuned search query. Here's the question for today: "Two future presidents signed me. Two didn't because they were abroad. Despite my importance, modern viewers seem to think I have a glaring spelling error. What is it?" Clicking "show answer" on the A Google a Day Website also shows the best search queries for finding the answer.
As Newsgrange points out, the game will act as a promotion for Google search, while also training users on how to form effective queries and use other search tools, such as Images and News.
Still, I wonder whether this little game actually exposes a weakness in traditional search. As we've seen with IBM's Watson, the computer that bested Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Jeopardy, computers are capable of answering complex trivia questions such as the ones Google is asking. Inevitably, the technology behind Watson will become available to everyone, and the idea of parsing lengthy questions into little keyword fragments will seem obsolete.
But that's not going to happen anytime soon. For now, at least, A Google a Day is a fun way to search for trivia answers without feeling like a cheat.