Modern Crossword Puzzles Turn 100!

First Crossword Puzzle
Recreation of Arthur Wynne‘s original crossword puzzle from December 21, 1913. Public domain photo.

The Modern Crossword Puzzle Is Invented

This weekend the Google Doodle is devoted to the crossword puzzle.

On December 21, 1913, the first modern puzzle, created by Arthur Wynne, was published in The New York World, one of many newspapers in New York City at that time.

Wynne called it a “word-cross”, but the name was eventually changed because of a typesetting error.

Wynne was living in Cedar Grove, New Jersey when he invented this very specific puzzle form.

The puzzle was based on earlier forms of puzzles and was diamond-shaped.

These puzzles were successful almost from the beginning, and eventually became the famous square puzzles we love today.

You can read about the history of these specific types of puzzles in a Brief History of Crossword Puzzles.

As George Elliot writes:

Crossword puzzles are said to be the most popular and widespread word game in the world, yet have a short history. The first crosswords appeared in England during the 19th century. They were of an elementary kind, apparently derived from the word square, a group of words arranged so the letters read alike vertically and horizontally, and printed in children’s puzzle books and various periodicals. In the United States, however, the puzzle developed into a serious adult pastime.

There is an excellent article from The Atlantic: Party Down: 100 Years of the Crossword Puzzle.

As Rebecca J. Rosen in The Atlantic writes:

In the time since crossword puzzles have become a beloved morning tradition in many homes. Today’s puzzles still fundamentally look a lot like that first puzzle by Wynne, but many aspects of puzzling have changed: how they are constructed, the sorts of clues they contain, and even how (some) puzzlers go about solving them.

Ironically, The New York Times disapproved of these puzzles at first, but now The New York Times crosswords are celebrated as some of the most difficult.

There is a terrific blog devoted to The New York Times puzzles: Rex Parker Does the NY Times Crossword Puzzle. I heartily suggest a visit.

Please read my post on World Press Freedom Day 2018.

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