The Invention of the Cross-Word Puzzle

On December 21st in 1913 the first crossword puzzle was published in the New York World.

Arthur Wynne is usually credited as the inventor of the popular word game. Wynne puzzle had horizontal and vertical words with hints in the shape of a diamond, internal black squares. The numbering system was different from todays. Instead of grouping the clue by ‘across’ and ‘down’, the clues were indicated by a start and stop number.

Prior to Wynne invention, there had been word puzzles based on the word square, where the letter were arranged to read the same way vertically and horizontally.

In the 1920’s crosswords became an American obsession. One man shot his wife because she wouldn’t help him with a crossword. A Chicago woman sued her husband for divorce, claiming “he was so engrossed in solving crosswords that he didn’t have time to work.”

Yet Wynne didn’t invent the word crossword. He called the puzzle a word-cross. A typesetter reversed the words and crossword stuck.

At first the only place you could find a crossword puzzle was in the New York World. The New York Times resisted the pull of the puzzle until the 1940’s and only put them into the Sunday paper. Weekday puzzles wouldn’t appear there for another decade.

In the 20’s, a couple of young bloods named Richard L. Simon and M. Lincoln Schuster began publishing books of crossword puzzles. They were very successful.

The term crossword first appeared in a dictionary in 1930.

Want to create crosswords, but need some help? Consider the Crossword Compiler. For $169, you can have the same tool used by the people who supply the New York Times and other.


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