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The World’s First Crossword – The History

by fabiane.atallah on August 29th, 2012.

This article was taken from another site (see link below) and posted on this blog by the TEACHER for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES.

 Arthur Wynne

   Arthur Wynne had the job of devising the weekly puzzle page for Fun, the eight-page comic section of the New York World. When he devised what he called a Word-cross for the Christmas 1913 edition, published on 21 December he could have no idea that he would be starting a worldwide craze.

  The puzzle page had previously featured plenty of word squares, rebuses, hidden words, anagrams and connect-the-dots drawings. For this edition Wynne decided he would have something new. He sketched out a diamond-shaped grid, wrote FUN, the name of the comic section, across the top squares, and started filling in the rest of the grid. He numbered the squares at the start and end of each word, and wrote definition clues for the words he had filled in. The puzzle was printed with the instruction to the solver: “Fill in the small squares with words which agree with the following definitions.”. Thus was the crossword born.

The new puzzle became popular immediately, and continued to appear every week. One change was that after a few weeks the name was changed from Word-cross to Cross-word. After experimenting with different shapes, including a circular puzzle, Wynne eventually settled on a rectangular pattern. It was not until some time later that the hyphen was dropped, and the Cross-word became a Crossword.

From the very first, readers began sending in crosswords they had composed, and by February 1914, Wynne was regularly using these readers’ submissions. There was a problem, however: the weekly crossword was plagued by typesetting errors, and as a result it was decided to drop the crossword. An immediate howl of outrage came from the readers, and the crossword was reinstated after an absence of only one week.

Surprisingly, despite their popularity, crosswords appeared nowhere else but the New York World. Then in 1924, a couple of newly-qualified graduates of the Columbia School of Journalism, called Dick Simon and Lincoln Schuster, set up in business as publishers. Looking for something to publish, they settled on a book of the puzzles from the New York World. This book was an immediate massive hit, and launched the crossword craze worldwide.

The Sunday Express printed England’s first crossword puzzle in early November
1924. Strangely enough, the coauthor of that puzzle was none other than Arthur Wynne! (Well,
Maybe it’s not so inquisitive. Nearly all we know of Wynne’s life is that he was Liverpudlian
who migrated to America as a journalist.) Wynne had shown a few of his puzzles to a
syndication, C. W. Shepherd, who convinced the Sunday Express to run a few lines. The very first one
selected had an American spelling, so Shepherd set out to create what he thought of those that would beat trivial change.


Through the time he was finished he had revised several words and phrases as well as clues, firmly
Creating, if not inaugurating, the continuing custom of unlimited editorial privilege to Tinker with purpose to improve.
Crossword puzzles rapidly grew to become one of the most well-known amusements of the time,
Both in America (USA) and in Europe. Never before had a novelty obtained such extensive news coverage both in USA and around the world.
Between November 17 and December 23, 1924, The New York newspaper released
More than twenty articles and editorials related to crossword puzzles. The paper carried on
To run articles and editorial comments from time to time for the next five years. The material
In the remainder of this section is driven primarily from items that made an appearance in the Times.
(Dates cited refer to publication and not necessarily to the actual events.)
On November 17, 1924, The New York Times editorialized that crossword puzzles
Were “scarcely removed from the form of temporary madness that made so many people
Pay tremendous sums for rnah jong sets.” Another editorial less than a week Later continued
The ridicule.
November 24: Scholars at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore speculated that an
Artifact called the “Phaestus Disk” could have been a forerunner of modem crossword puzzles.
This terra-cotta disk, apparently of Cretan origin and perhaps dating from 2 I 00 B.C., was
On display in the Johns Hopkins Archeological Museum. It had a spiral design of the then un-translated Symbols, which may have made sense when read working outward from the Center or inward from the rim.
A week later, two Princeton University professors released challenges to their respective Classes. Robert Root, a professor of English, made the still-excellent recommendation that established an English vocabulary course using crossword puzzles as text material would be very useful.  Warner Fite, a professor of logic, offered a prize for a successfully compiled crossword puzzle in which a solitary set of meanings would lead to two totally different yet equally correct sets of answers for a single diagram. No one claimed the prize.

Fill in the small squares with words which agree with the following definitions.
What bargain hunters enjoy.
A written acknowledgment.
Such and nothing more.
A bird.
Opposed to less.
What this puzzle is.
An  animal of prey.
The close of a day.
To elude.
The plural of is.
To cultivate.
A bar of wood or iron.
What artists learn to do.
Found on the seashore.
The fibre of the gomuti palm.
What we all should be.
A day dream.
A talon.
A pigeon.
Part of your head.
A river in Russia.
To govern.
An aromatic plant.
A fist.
To agree with.
Part of a ship.
To sink in mud.
A boy.
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