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The History of AOL as Told Through New York Times Crossword Clues

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With just a few letters, most of which are vowels, AOL is a common crutch of cruciverbalists.

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There are many ways to tell the story of AOL (NYSE:AOL) and its numerous reinventions, so here's just one: The New York Times Crossword. With just a few letters, most of which are vowels, AOL is a common crutch of cruciverbalists. (See also: APE, EPEE, and BRIO.)

Below, I've compiled nearly every appearance of AOL in the Times crossword from 1997 to 2011, taking the company on a journey from "Prodigy competitor" (Jan. 14, 1997) to "Netcom competitor" (Mar. 29, 1998) to "Juno rival" (Apr. 6, 2003) to "Gmail alternative" (June 5, 2007) to "Yahoo! competitor" (May 10, 2010)-oh, and finally, "Huffington Post buyer" (Apr. 17, 2011) and "Company with Patch Media" (Oct. 9, 2011). There are many other gems in between.

The data were compiled from an app for searching Times crossword clues, which was built by Quartz product engineering director Michael Donohoe.

1997
Jan. 14, 1997: Prodigy competitor, for short
Oct. 4, 1997: Cyberspace abbr.

1998
Mar. 29, 1998: Netcom competitor
Jun. 17, 1998: Chat room inits.
Oct. 4, 1998: Part of some E-mail addresses

1999

Apr. 11, 1999: "You've got mail" co.
Aug. 3, 1999: Prodigy alternative, for short
Sept. 2, 1999: "You've got mail" co.

2000
Apr. 13, 2000: Big letters in cyberspace
Sept. 13, 2000: Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) competitor
Dec. 14, 2000: Company founded by Steve Case

2001
Jan. 16, 2001: Part of many e-mail addresses
Apr. 5, 2001: Company in a 2000 merger
Aug. 31, 2001: Chatroom offerer
Sept. 2, 2001: Netscape purchaser
Sept. 3, 2001: CompuServe is part of it
Sept. 23, 2001: Co. in a 2001 merger
Sept. 25, 2001: Popular I.S.P.
Nov. 4, 2001: Part of many e-mail addresses
Nov. 23, 2001: Part of some e-mail addresses

2002
Feb. 2, 2002: Earthlink (NASDAQ:ELNK) competitor
Feb. 26, 2002: It merged with Time Warner (NYSE:TWX)
Mar. 3, 2002: Earthlink competitor
May 9, 2002: Popular ISP
Jun. 13, 2002: Co. in a big 2001 merger
Aug. 2, 2002: Big inits. on the Net
Dec. 13, 2002: One way to the WWW

2003
Jan. 18, 2003: Trio after @, perhaps
Feb. 4, 2003: "You've got mail" co.
Apr. 6, 2003: Juno rival
May 4, 2003: Partner in a big 2001 merger
May 29, 2003: Media inits. since 1989
Jul. 7, 2003: "You've got mail" co.
Oct. 21, 2003: Earthlink competitor

2004
Mar. 22, 2004: Co. that merged with Time Warner
Jul. 18, 2004: MSN (NASDAQ:MSFT) competitor
Aug. 19, 2004: Big name in ISP's
Sept. 29, 2004: Earthlink alternative
Nov. 15, 2004: Netscape's owner

2005
Jan. 4, 2005: "You've got mail" co.
Feb. 13, 2005: MSN competitor
Feb. 22, 2005: Time Warner merger partner
Apr. 1, 2005: Modern-day corp. giant with a 1992 I.P.O.
May 2, 2005: Yahoo! competitor
May 11, 2005: MSN competitor
Aug. 2, 2005: Co. with a triangular logo
Aug. 7, 2005: Big mail deliverer
Sept. 28, 2005: One way to the www
Oct. 26, 2005: Co. that offers I.M.'s

2007
Feb. 7, 2007: Popular I.S.P.
May. 25, 2007: Part of AIM
June 5, 2007: Gmail (NASDAQ:GOOG) alternative
July 13, 2007: Popular ISP
Aug. 6, 2007: Yahoo! competitor
Oct. 27, 2007: Name for Quantum Computer Services since '89
Dec. 16, 2007: I.S.P. of note

2008
Jan. 31, 2008: Co. with a triangular logo
Apr. 20, 2008: Popular portal
June 15, 2008: MSN rival
July 2, 2008: Alternative to Gmail
Aug. 26, 2008: Co. in a 2001 merger with Time Warner
Oct. 11, 2008: Choice for chat
Dec. 17, 2008: "You've got mail" co.

2009
Feb. 8, 2009: Co. with a triangular logo
Feb. 12, 2009: Comcast alternative
May 20, 2009: Netscape acquirer
Aug. 27, 2009: Popular ISP
Nov. 9, 2009: I.M. provider

2010
Feb. 13, 2010: Co. split off from Time Warner in 2009
Apr. 21, 2010: Pioneer in instant messaging
May 10, 2010: Yahoo! competitor
May 12, 2010: Gmail alternative
July 29, 2010: Internet giant
Aug. 11, 2010: Yahoo! competitor
Aug. 12, 2010: Quantum Computer Services, today
Dec. 4, 2010: Co. with many keywords
Dec. 10, 2010: Part of AIM
Dec. 25, 2010: Company with an I.P.O. in both 1992 and 2009

2011
Jan. 2, 2011: Instant messaging pioneer
Mar. 9, 2011: Popular I.S.P.
Apr. 17, 2011: Huffington Post buyer in 2011
June 14, 2011: Company in a 2011 merger with the Huffington Post
June 20, 2011: Yahoo! alternative
July 5, 2011: "You've got mail" co.
Aug. 15, 2011: Time Warner spinoff of '09
Oct. 9, 2011: Company with Patch Media
Oct. 16, 2011: Co. that owns Moviefone
Dec. 5, 2011: "You've got mail" co.

This story by Zachary M. Seward originally appeared on Quartz.

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