Arthur Wynne’s “word-cross”, the first crossword puzzle, is published in the New York World.
The crossword puzzle has a fascinating history that dates back to the late 19th century.
Precursors to Crossword Puzzles (19th Century): Before the crossword puzzle as we know it today, there were word games and puzzles that involved arranging words and letters in a grid. For example, an early form of a word square was published in an Italian book in 1550. However, these were not quite the crossword puzzles we’re familiar with.
The Birth of the Crossword Puzzle (1913): The modern crossword puzzle is generally credited to Arthur Wynne, a British-born journalist who was working for the New York World newspaper. On December 21, 1913, the newspaper published what is considered the first-ever crossword puzzle. It was a diamond-shaped grid with simple clues.
Popularity Growth (1920s): Crossword puzzles quickly gained popularity. The New York Times introduced its first crossword puzzle in 1942, and it became a daily feature in 1950. The crossword craze spread to other newspapers, and people across the United States were captivated by the challenge and entertainment these puzzles offered.
Word-Cross to Crossword: The name “crossword” itself evolved from the original term “word-cross.” This change in name occurred as the puzzle’s popularity grew and the format became standardized.
Crossword Dictionaries and Solving Techniques: As crossword puzzles became more widespread, the need for crossword dictionaries and solving techniques emerged. People started developing strategies for tackling the challenging clues, and specialized dictionaries were published to aid in solving.
Variations and Innovations: Over the years, crossword puzzles have seen various innovations and variations. Cryptic crosswords, where clues involve wordplay and often require a deeper level of thinking, became popular in the UK. In the United States, the American-style crossword with its focus on quick, straightforward clues became the norm.
Digital Age and Online Crosswords: With the advent of the internet, crossword puzzles transitioned from newspapers to online platforms. Many newspapers and independent websites offer daily crossword puzzles, and there are even crossword-solving apps.
Competitions and Events: Crossword puzzle competitions, such as the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ACPT), have become popular events. These competitions attract avid crossword enthusiasts from around the world.
Global Popularity: The popularity of crossword puzzles is not limited to the English-speaking world. Crossword puzzles in various languages are enjoyed by people worldwide, each with its own linguistic and cultural twists.