American Crossword Puzzles Week

Although crossword puzzles are arguably the most popular word game played today, they are a relatively recent creation. A journalist named Arthur Wynne from Liverpool, England, created the first known published crossword puzzle, and most credit him as the inventor of the popular word game. On December 21, 1913, his puzzle appeared in a Sunday newspaper, the New York World. During the early 1920s, other newspapers picked up the newly discovered pastime and within a decade, crossword puzzles featured in almost all American newspapers. The first appearance of a crossword in a British publication was in Pearson’s Magazine in February 1922, and the first Times crossword appeared on February 1 1930. British puzzles quickly developed their own style, being considerably more difficult than the American variety. In particular, the cryptic crossword became established and rapidly gained popularity. A. F. Ritchie and D. S. Macnutt laid down the generally considered governing rules for cryptic puzzles.

Crossword puzzle design has some unwritten rules. One such is that traditionally (in North America, India, and Britain particularly) the grid has 180-degree rotational (also known as “radial”) symmetry, so that its pattern appears the same if the paper is turned upside down. Also, the clues are generally consistent with the solutions. For instance, clues and their solutions should always agree in tense, number, and degree. If a clue is in the past tense, so is the answer; if the clue is plural, so is the answer; if the clue contains an abbreviation, so does the answer.

Older folks in particular, do crosswords to help keep their brains sharp. Since they appear in most newspapers every day, it is an easy exercise. Or, if you type the phrase crossword puzzles online into your browser, it will take you to a whole page of online crosswords from which to choose.

The graphic below is of the very first crossword puzzle. If you are interested in solving it, you can find a bigger picture of it and the clues here, as well as a link to the solution.

Quotes about crossword puzzles

The nice thing about doing a crossword puzzle is, you know there is a solution.–Stephen Sondheim

For many years, it seemed as if nothing changed in Norway. You could leave the country for three months, travel the world, through coups d’etat, assassinations, famines, massacres and tsunamis, and come home to find that the only new thing in the newspapers was the crossword puzzle.–Jo Nesbo

I would prefer to live forever in perfect health, but if I must at some time leave this life, I would like to do so ensconced on a chaise longue, perfumed, wearing a velvet robe and pearl earrings, with a flute of champagne beside me and having just discovered the answer to the last problem in a British cryptic crossword.–Olivia De Havilland

I don’t have any trouble memorizing lines because of the crossword puzzles I do every day to keep my mind a little limber. I don’t sit and vegetate.–Betty White

I get up, go and get a coffee, and go do the crossword – I’m loyal to one particular paper, the ‘Guardian’ – and that’s my idea of a perfect morning.–Laura Marling

People who work crossword puzzles know that if they stop making progress, they should put the puzzle down for a while.–Marilyn vos Savant

I do the “New York Times” crossword puzzle every morning to keep the old grey matter ticking.–Carol Burnett

I enjoy walking my dog and completing crossword puzzles.–Brian Jacques

I love doing the ‘New York Times’ crossword puzzle, even on the days I can’t finish it. Lauren Graham

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