Summary: Crossword puzzles are known to have a long history and let us explore some
details about its advent.
Crossword puzzle is a game of words, where a player can get a clue along with the number
of letters in a word to identify it. Then, the player will have to fill the grid of squares by
identifying the right words. The first crossword puzzle was invented by the Liverpool
Journalist Arthur Wynne.
He was born in Liverpool in England on the 22nd of June 1871. At the age of 19, he relocated
to the United States, wherein he initially lived in Pittsburgh and served for the Pittsburgh
Press Newspaper. In addition to working for the newspaper, he has also played violin in
Symphony Orchestra in this city.
Later, he relocated to Cedar Grove in New Jersey, where he started working for a NYC-
based newspaper called as the New York World. His first puzzle was published on the 21st of
December 1913 in the New York World. This was done by him after he was requested by the
editor of the newspaper to invent a new game for the Sunday Entertainment section of the
From Word-Cross to Cross-Word:
The initial crossword puzzle of Arthur Waynne was called as word-cross and it was in the
shape of a diamond. Then, the name was changed as cross-word. As days went, the hyphen
was dropped and this is why it is presently called as crossword puzzle.
This first creator of crossword puzzle based his puzzle on an alike, but older game played in
ancient Pompeii that was translated from Latin to English. This predecessor to crossword
puzzle is called as Magic square. In this game, the gamer will be given a group of words,
who will have to arrange them on a grid in such a way that the words read the same way
both down and across. In crossword puzzles, as against words, the player will get clues.
Waynne’s further inventions:
Initially, even though, he found diamond shaped game, he then discovered horizontal and
perpendicular shaped puzzles. Even, he used the technique of black grids in this game.
The first crossword puzzle was published in Pearson’s Magazine in the year 1922 on the
month of February in a British publication. In New York Times, the first puzzle was published
in the year 1930 on the month of February.
Some people were driven over the edge by the craze towards these games. In 1924, a
woman from Chicago sued her husband for divorce, claiming that he was so captivated in
solving these puzzles spending no time towards work. Following the sue, the judge ordered
the man to restrict himself to just 3 puzzles a day and it was also ordered that he should
dedicate the rest of his time towards work and domestic duties.
In 1925, an employee of the New York Telephone Company shot his wife, just because she
was not able to help him in solving the puzzle.
In the year 1926, a man from Budapest committed suicide, leaving an explanation that no
one could solve a particular crossword puzzle. It took the New York Times to revive it.
By late 1930s, the boom for these puzzles that began in the year 1924, slowly started to
fade away. The reason was that most of the crossword puzzles published in newspapers and
magazines are highly predictable. But, New York Times is highly proud that their readers
never get bored with the crossword puzzles published in the newspaper.
First book of crossword puzzles:
As per the Guinness world records, the initial collection of crossword puzzles in a book form
was published in the United States in the year 1924. This book was named as The Cross
Word Puzzle Book and it was published by Lincoln Schuster and Dick Simon. This book was
created by taking the crossword puzzles published in the New York World and it became a
great hit, which motivated the publishers to publish many such books.
When the computer games began to rule the world of gaming enthusiasts, the first
computer software for crossword puzzles was patented in the year 1997. The name of this
program is Crossword Weaver and it is owned by Variety Games Inc.
Some interesting puzzling facts:
• ‘The Times’ estimates that an average gamer will take around half an hour to solve
the 15×15 square puzzles that are published daily in the newspaper, while it will take
two hours for an average puzzler to solve the larger Sunday puzzle published in the
• The daily puzzles published in the Times are created in such a way that they get
progressively harder every day starting from Monday through Sunday. It is stated
that experts alone can solve the Saturday puzzle published and it is needless to say
about the Sunday Puzzle. The paper designs weekend puzzles as the hardest
because people find time to solve them only during the holidays.
• It is stated that constructing the puzzles take more time as compared to solving
them. One of the puzzle creators for the Times named Maura B. Jacobson has stated
that it takes him a day to make the Sunday Puzzle for the newspaper. He has stated
that it takes a minimum of 10-12 hours for him in making definitions and he has also
stated that his research takes a day and then a day is taken to get the words into
• One of the editors of the New York Times crossword puzzles named Eugene Maleska,
who was the editor during 1992 has stated that the editing is the tough task and she
has stated that there are not more than 600 people in the entire country skilled
enough to do the editing.
• The New York Times is also highly cautious about using only decent words in the
puzzles and even though some words like rum, bra and ale are allowed, they avoid
these words as much as possible.
In short, the present crossword puzzles that we see in newspapers and magazines have a
lot of work behind and this is truer in the case of puzzles that can be found online as well.