The Crossword Puzzle Turns 100

When I think of crossword puzzles, I think of my dad in the quiet repose of a Sunday morning. He’s sitting at the kitchen table, the Boston Globe spread out before him. He’s already gone through and read the sports section first, then the others one by one, before settling into the mental solitude of the crossword puzzle.

Wordplay - 15 - Jon_StewartThis weekend marks the 100th birthday of the crossword puzzle. On December 21, 1913, Arthur Wynne published a little diamond-shaped puzzle, along with 30-odd clues, in the New York World.

Though the puzzle didn’t immediately catch-on for at least a decade, it is now — along with Sudoku — a cherished way to spend the morning commute. From Publisher’s Weekly:

The crossword was invented by a lone newspaperman named Arthur Wynne. Wynne was born in Liverpool in 1871, but he eventually moved to the U.S. and assumed the editorial reins of the Fun section of New York World(which was then owned by Joseph Pulitzer). Wynne’s brainchild made its debut in the Dec. 21, 1913, edition of the paper. The first crossword was a diamond-shaped grid matched to synonym-style clues. The word “FUN” was spelled out in the top three boxes, and Wynne instructed readers to jot answers to the clues in the blank squares using capital letters. He was surprised by the bags of fan mail that the new “cross word” generated. Wynne had struck gold by giving readers a mental workout disguised as a game.

Google has paid customary tribute to the crossword puzzle with a fantastic digital one and The Atlantic’s Rebecca Rosen interviewed Deb Amlen, writer of Wordplay, the official crossword blog of The New York Times, about how our digital age is shaping crossword puzzles.

To me, however, the crossword puzzle will always be a manifestation of my dad at the kitchen table, my love of words, and an outlet for my ultra-competitiveness. And no, Jon Stewart is not my dad.

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