After another set of fruitless experiments and abandoned ideas, my mentor told me we were back to square one.

“Quick question,” I interjected, “Where exactly is square one?”

Some sources claim square one is on the football pitch. In the 1930s, BBC radio sports commentators divided the pitch into eight sections, with square one at the bottom right corner. Others claim square one comes from hopscotch or snakes and ladders. Regardless of the game, being at square one puts you at the beginning with no progress.

Square-1 is also the name of a puzzle derived from the Rubik’s Cube. For practiced cubers, solving a Square-1 can become incredibly straightforward.

My mentor and I didn’t feel like we were at square one. Sure, we were at the beginning, but being at square one implies square two is just ahead. Every time we returned to the beginning, we were too disoriented to know where to look first. Much of our progress felt sideways or backwards.

On a lesser note, computer scientists don’t begin counting with one; they begin counting with zero.

In that meeting, in front of the drawing board, we made a decision. We were not at square one. We were at circle zero. Eventually, circle zero became familiar. Sure, it was mischievous, and at times confusing, but it no longer felt new. Whenever we left, we never worried about saying goodbye; we would be back eventually.

For most people, today is square one. Today’s square on the Gregorian calendar is the first day of first month. As such, I wish you all a happy circle zero.


  1. Square-1 Puzzle
  2. The discourse surrounding the etymology of “square one” lacks enough rigor to warrant any particular links. Instead, a Google search for “origin of square one” will provide plenty of questionable sources offering one of the three explanations listed above.