“Hardest Crossword” designed to educate about Alzheimer’s
by Kristin Easterling
May 17, 2019

Spend a minute—or three—with this crossword puzzle. Can you solve it? Probably not—and that’s the point.

Hardest CrosswordThe Hardest Crossword Click here to open a larger version of this image in another window.

The Hardest Crossword was designed to be unsolvable in an effort to educate the public about Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a collaboration between the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) and Area 23, a health care advertising agency that donated its services to the AFA.

“One of the main goals of the puzzle is have people experience the confusion and frustration with the inability to solve the puzzle and to understand the impact of the disease,” said Charles Fuschillo, president and CEO of the AFA.

Area 23 enlisted Will Shortz, the crossword editor of The New York Times, and Fred Piscop, a renowned crossword author. Three families were interviewed and the information they shared was used to create the puzzle featured here, about a real woman named Pat, as well as two others about patients named Katherine and Marie. The puzzles were published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic and other publications in 2016, reaching—and stumping—millions of crossword enthusiasts.

Fuschillo also uses the crossword at his organization’s regular educational conferences, handing one out to attendees and giving them three minutes to solve it. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, Fuschillo said.

You can find help with this puzzle and the other two examples at www.thehardestcrossword.com.

The AFA was founded in 2002 by Bert Brodsky to provide support for caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Today, the foundation has more than 2,800 member offices nationwide offering referral services through 20,000 licensed social workers and has provided memory screening to nearly 5 million people. Caregivers seeking assistance should reach out to the AFA at (866) 232-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.