The Crossword Puzzle: A Wordy History
Our Guest Blogger, Samantha Marcelo, is a freelance and fiction writer living in Calgary, Alberta. Samantha has a keen interest in all things history-related, and wanted to share some remarkable historical inventions with the readers of InventorSpot.com.
Here's her article:
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It's rare today to open a newspaper or visit an airport book store without encountering the omnipresent crossword puzzle. Ranging in skill level from easy to unbelievable genius, the crossword puzzle is arguably the world's most popular word game - a fate its inventor probably didn't consider.
Arthur Wynne was a journalist working for the New York World at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1913, his editor asked him to invent a new game for Fun, the World's weekly section of jokes and puzzles that Wynne edited. Thinking back to his childhood in England, he remembered a word game in which words were arranged to be the same both vertically and horizontally. Inspired by this, Wynne invented the first crossword puzzle. It looked a little different from what we know today, in a diamond shape and with no black squares. However, the basics were the same. Wynne's puzzle had clues for each word and the grid was designed for frequent word crossing, or "checking". Called "Word-Cross," this new invention was published in the World in December 1913. The crossword puzzle was immediately successful and became a permanent part of the World. The crossword puzzle eventually assumed its now-familiar shape and name - the result of an accidental mix-up of the two words - shortly thereafter.
By 1922, crossword puzzles were appearing in dozens of American and British newspapers. British newspapers began to invent their own style of crossword puzzle, with a different grid featuring fewer checked letters, and more cryptic clues. In 1924, the young New York publishers Richard Simon and Max Schuster, allegedly upon the request of Simon's aunt, published the world's first crossword puzzle book. Simon & Schuster's first-ever published book, it was created with puzzles made by editors of the World. The book was, predictably, just as popular as the puzzle itself, selling all of the 36,000 copies of its first printing. Simon & Schuster published two more volumes of the crossword puzzle book and other publishers followed suit, feeding the mania for the puzzles.
Current New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz has said about the invention, "The success of the crossword books launched a nationwide craze, even more furious than the hula hoop, pet rocks and Beanie Babies." The crossword puzzle was so popular that it was even featured in several songs of this period in history, with titles like "Cross Word Puzzle Blues," "Cross Word Mamma You Puzzle Me (But Papa's Gonna Figure You Out)," and "Since Ma's Gone Crazy Over Cross Word Puzzles."
Today, crosswords can be found in every newspaper, and hundreds of magazines and books are devoted to them. People make completing a crossword puzzle a daily habit, and some are downright obsessed with them. In fact, the crossword puzzle is still one of the most popular word games in history. The invention of the crossword puzzle has helped to enrich our capacity for words, improve our critical thought and given us a smart way to pass the time.
Sources: FunwithWords.com and EphemeraSociety.org