One across, ten down. Crossword puzzles, you can love them but sometimes you curse them. Okay, maybe I’m just going overboard. But those little square boxes and the crisscrossing words can be quite addictive. But have you ever wondered where they came from or who started all this. From the easiest one to the most complicated, these puzzles must have an origin which we can trace back to as early as 1913.
It was journalist Arthur Wynne who is often credited as the inventor of the first crossword. This journalist from Liverpool, England was working for the World back then. His “word-cross”, which was what he called it came out in December 21, 1913. Although, it is not the same as the puzzles we know today, there are a lot of similarities and basically the idea is the same. The puzzles were later renamed as “crosswords” and slowly began to be popular. Other papers began publishing these puzzles as well. And by the 1920s, one can no longer deny the popularity of the crossword puzzle. To add to its fame, Simon and Schuster published a crossword puzzle book in 1924. The book was even sold with a pencil attached to it so people can get on it the minute they bought the book.
The puzzles popularity even went as far as the reference sections of libraries. In fact, it is known that the New York Public Library even considered banning people who were at a fix with their puzzles from the dictionaries and other materials they have from the library’s reference section. The library claimed that these crossword puzzlers, as they call them, prevent students and other readers who need the dictionaries and encyclopedias more.
From the 1920s to the 1930s, the popularity of the crossword puzzles soared. In fact, there was so much attention given to it that the issue of it becoming a fad was not gone unnoticed by critics. Some has called it as nothing but a meaningless and mindless waste of anyone’s time. In fact, there were some publications that insisted on not including crosswords in their papers because they believe that it was nothing but a craze that soon will pass. The crazy phase did die down in the 1930s but the impact the crosswords had remained and continue to be a part of the daily lives of millions of people today.
In terms of popularity and prominence, the New York Times crossword puzzle is notorious for being one of the most difficult to solve. The Times began publishing the puzzles only from 1942. The paper was among those publications that did not feel to ride on the popularity of the puzzles more than a decade earlier.
During World War II, some military intelligence officers became paranoid with crosswords. They thought that the appearance of some words that coincides to secret military codes for the upcoming invasion of Germany was being passed on to the enemy. The puzzles in question were the ones that appeared from May to June 1944 on The Daily Telegraph. However, it was proven that the appearance of certain words in the puzzles were mere coincidence. Nevertheless, that fact that crosswords can be used to transmit coded messages was never disregarded by the military.
The puzzles have come a long way since then. But the truth remains that it still has a horde of followers today and will continue to have so even in the distant future.