Taylor Swift fans solve 33 million Google puzzles to unlock new song titles


Taylor Swift fans are joking that, after crashing the Ticketmaster and Spotify websites, they’ve now broken Google.

That’s not quite true — but the search engine’s latest “Easter egg,” a word puzzle game it had partnered with Swift to create, did appear to be glitching as fans rushed to complete the latest challenge Swift had set them.

It all began when Google and Swift announced the new game — users searching for “Taylor Swift” would see a blue vault icon pop up on their browser. Once clicked, users are served a series of word puzzles, which they can complete by typing the correct answer into the search bar.

Each individual can work through 89 puzzles (a reference to Swift’s upcoming album, “1989 (Taylor’s Version)”) — but the challenge is only complete when 33 million individual puzzles are solved, enabling fans to learn the track titles for the new, previously unheard songs being released in Swift’s album (these are known to Swifties as “vault” tracks because they were cut from the previous version of the album.)

For non-fans, that might sound like a lot of work just to learn a song title. But loyal Swifties seemed to think it was worth the pain — quickly setting up Reddit threads and spreadsheets with the answers — and ultimately solving all 33 million puzzles in mere hours.

In fact — they seemed to take to the task so well that, they complained, Google couldn’t keep up. On Tuesday afternoon, several fans complained that the game had stopped working for them.

“I think Taylor Swift has physically broken the entire internet,” read one of many tweets complaining that the search engine was not functioning. “Taylor swift has broken google,” wrote another fan. “If google couldn’t be prepared for Swifties then who can honestly,” one fan wrote as others shared tips for getting into the vault (which included using a laptop instead of a cellphone and repeatedly refreshing browsers.)

Google appeared to admit to technical issues, writing in a note laden with Swift lyrics on X, the platform formerly Twitter: “Swifties, the vault is jammed! But don’t worry, there are no blank spaces inside. We’re in our fix-it era and will be out of the woods soon.”

“1989 (Taylor’s Version)” will be released on Oct. 27 and includes several previously unreleased songs, which on Wednesday were unveiled after fans conquered the vault as: “Is it over now?” “Now that we don’t talk.” “Say don’t go.” and “Suburban legends.”

Swift is no stranger to pre-album publicity tactics, or setting up elaborate puzzles for her fans — frequently including clues and hints in her music and social media posts, with many fans conditioned to think that everything she says can have a hidden meaning, as The Post previously reported. (Fans also scrutinized the Google puzzle carefully for clues — with many speculating that the 33 million puzzles to solve was a reference to Swift’s age, 33 — and some even wondered if Google’s technical problems were a reference to her song “Glitch.”)

How the search for clues in Taylor Swift’s music became all-consuming

This could also be why such an elaborate game — which obviously benefits both Swift and Google in terms of the huge search traffic generated — works for Swift, whereas fans of other artists may be less ready to engage.

Swift’s fame has “skyrocketed” to new levels lately, and she has a “unique sense of playfulness” that drives her fans to take part in clue-hunting initiatives, Elly McCausland, a professor of literary studies at Belgium’s Ghent University, who is about to start teaching a course on Swift and literature, said in an interview. “It’s all a game and the fans are the players.”

It’s not clear if fans will keep engaging in these puzzles so enthusiastically in the long run — McCausland, a self-confessed Swiftie who spent some time Wednesday playing the game, said that she had seen some complaints online, and that such a high level of commercialization might eventually start to annoy some fans.

On the other hand, Swift’s lyrics and song titles are a good fit for word games because the “relatability” of her work makes the phrases she uses memorable and appealing, she added.

“Swift uses idiomatic words and phrases. There’s a sense with her writing of déjà vu. We’ve heard this phrase before. There’s something quite familiar about her work, she uses lines that are common public language.”

Some of Swift’s lyrics are so well known they’ve almost become their own dialect, McCausland noted — something evidenced in how Google’s announcements, and a lot of media coverage of Swift — use her lyrics extensively. “Linguists speak about this idea of a ‘fanalect’ — a dialogue among fans,” something that is true for Swifties who are working together to solve the word puzzles.

And many fans are likely to find analyzing Swift’s writing, lyrics and symbols rewarding, McCausland says, because “there’s this sense of intertextuality this idea that every piece of writing references another piece of writing.”

Taylor Swift now has more VMAs than Madonna. Only Beyoncé has more.


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