It’s the question on everyone’s mind: What will Taylor Swift do next? What territory has she not yet traversed? What frontier is left to dominate? What partnership has she not forged, what labyrinth has she not masterminded? Well, the answer—for today at least—is taking over Google with a series of cryptic puzzles that will eventually unlock the 1989 “From the Vault” tracks.
Here’s how it works. If you search “Taylor Swift” on Google, you may see an animation of a little vault. (This will not work every time. Sometimes, as this writer can tell you, you may sit refreshing the “Taylor Swift” page over and over until the little vault finally reappears.) If you click on the vault, a word puzzle will appear on your screen. These puzzles pertain to Swift in ways both incredibly general (one of them is just the word “love”; another reads “pop record”) and incredibly obscure (one of them is the word “sheep” with the hint “impossible to reason with,” referencing a since-deleted Instagram post from 2015).
The answers to these word puzzles are not the titles of the 1989 “From the Vault” tracks. The answers, when submitted via typing them into the search bar, will help unlock the titles to the “From the Vault” tracks. According to a blog from Google, there are 89 total puzzles, and apparently all the Vault titles will be released when “everyone collectively solves 33 million puzzles.” (Taylor Swift, who famously has a thing for numerology, is 33 years old.) Clicking on the vault animation gives you the option to “check global progress”; as of 3 p.m. EST, just over 365,000 of the 33 million puzzles had been solved.
That’s a lot more puzzling that needs to happen to unlock those five tracks, so Swift, the benevolent leader that she is, decided to throw fans a bone and post one directly to social media. But even then, it’s still a puzzle: the letters flying out of the vault could spell either SLUT! Or LUST! Given that the original 1989 era was when Swift came out as a feminist (nor was she prone to vulgar language back then), “Lust” seems like the best bet. But man, she is really making Swifties work for it this time around. “You can tell me when the *search* is over… if the high was worth the pain,” the pop star wrote in her caption.
The woman has always loved an Easter egg, but in recent years her communication through clues and codes has become downright astounding. She’s certainly trained her fans well for the moment, as their dogged determination and collective hive mind is historically a force to be reckoned with. (Good luck, Ticketmaster.) This one is particularly tricky, though, since Google wasn’t entirely clear on what counts as “solving” the puzzle. If anyone just so happens to search “sheep,” for example, does that count towards the Swifties’ 33 million total? Or must the search term specifically be “Taylor Swift sheep”? (The A.V. Club has reached out to Google for clarification.)
However long it takes fans to finally crack all the codes, one suspects there’s another motive behind this elaborate Saw trap. Having broken numerous and sundry records, including a fair amount no one’s ever even thought of, perhaps she’s now gunning to become the year’s most Googled person. (Most Googled person ever?) Her name is of course now trending on the platform, and presumably will continue to do so as the puzzles continue.
In any case, wishing all the best to those intrepid Swifties chipping away at the vault puzzle today. Others may choose to wait it out, knowing eventually the truth of the titles must be known. We’ll have five new Taylor Swift tracks on October 27, whether you put in the intellectual labor or not.