Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I hope you all had a very joyous Christmas and a fun-filled New Year’s celebration.
Last year I took a break from writing western historicals to pen a contemporary short story. It is titled A Crossword Puzzle Christmas and is part of the Christmas Roses anthology. As the title of the story hints, my heroine is a crossword puzzle enthusiast. Which got me to wondering about the origins of the crossword puzzle itself. So of course I immediately dug in and did some research on the subject and here are a few tidbits I found.
- Crossword puzzles are a relatively new pastime. The first one was published on 12/21/1913 in the New York World newspaper. The creator of this first puzzle was a journalist by the name of Arthur Wynne who hailed from Liverpool. You can see a reproduction of his original puzzle below.
- Arthur came up with the idea for these puzzles when he was trying to think up a new kind of game for the newspaper’s Christmas edition. He adapted it from a popular children’s game called ‘word squares’, transforming it into something more challenging for an adult readership.
- The original puzzle was well received, so much so that Arthur created new puzzles for the next two Sunday editions. In fact, when the New York World tried to drop the feature, readers complained so strenuously that the owners of the paper decided to make it a permanent part of the puzzle page.
- Arthur Wynne originally dubbed his puzzle a Word-Cross puzzle. However, several weeks after the puzzles debut, typesetters accidentally transposed the title and printed it as Cross-Word. For whatever reason, the name stuck.
- Though readers loved the puzzles, newspaper editors had the opposite reaction. The puzzles were difficult to print and they were prone to typographical errors. It was such a problem that no other newspaper wanted anything to do with them. As a result, for the next decade the only newspaper to carry the popular crossword puzzle was the New York World.
- Believe it or not, the crossword puzzle was responsible for launching publishing powerhouse Simon & Schuster. Popular lore has it that Richard Simon’s Aunt Wixie wondered aloud to him whether there was a book of these puzzles that she could purchase for her daughter. Simon, who was trying to break into publishing with his friend M. Lincoln Schuester, latched onto the idea as a way to kick start his business. The pair approached the New York World’s crossword puzzle editors and reached an agreement with them. For $25 each, they purchased the rights to publish the best puzzles in a book. They then sunk all their money into printing The Cross Word Puzzle Book. By year end they had sold more than 300,000 books and Simon & Schuester had become a major force in the publishing industry.
- As you can see from the puzzle above, the grid was originally diamond shaped. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the puzzles began to take the block form we’re familiar with today.
- It was also in the 1920s that crossword puzzles really took off in America. The puzzle craze inspired a Broadway plat titled Games of 1925 and a hit song called Crossword Mama, You Puzzle Me (don’t you just love it!).
- Despite their 20th century origin, crossword puzzles are said to be the most popular and widespread of word games in the world today.
There you have it – a brief history of the Crossword Puzzle.
So which of these tidbits surprise you the most? And how do you feel about crossword puzzles – do you love them? Hate them? Feel indifferent? Are there other types of puzzles you prefer?
And since this is my first post of the new year, I thought I’d celebrate by doing a giveaway. Everyone who leaves a comment on today’s post before noon on Tuesday will be entered into a drawing – the winner will have their choice of any book in my backlist