American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

 Crossword Tournament

Brief History of Crossword Puzzles

This is a puzzling world
George Eliot

Crossword puzzles are said to be the most popular and widespread word game in the world, yet have a short history. The first crosswords appeared in England during the 19th century. They were of an elementary kind, apparently derived from the word square, a group of words arranged so the letters read alike vertically and horizontally, and printed in children's puzzle books and various periodicals. In the United States, however, the puzzle developed into a serious adult pastime.

The first known published crossword puzzle was created by a journalist named Arthur Wynne from Liverpool, and he is usually credited as the inventor of the popular word game. December 21, 1913 was the date and it appeared in a Sunday newspaper, the New York World. Wynne's puzzle(see below) differed from today's crosswords in that it was diamond shaped and contained no internal black squares. During the early 1920's other newspapers picked up the newly discovered pastime and within a decade crossword puzzles were featured in almost all American newspapers. It was in this period crosswords began to assume their familiar form. Ten years after its rebirth in the States it crossed the Atlantic and re-conquered Europe.

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. The generally considered governing rules for cryptic puzzles were laid down by A. F. Ritchie and D. S. Macnutt.

These people, gifted with the ability to see words puzzled together in given geometrical patterns and capable of twisting and turning words into word plays dancing on the wit of human minds, have since constructed millions of puzzles by hand and each of these puzzlers has developed personal styles known and loved by his fans. These people have set the standard of what to expect from a quality crossword puzzle.

The world's first crossword puzzle

The first crossword puzzle, 12/21/1913
By Arthur Wynne, December 21, 1913
from The New York World

(Solution here)

2-3.What bargain hunters enjoy.6-22.What we all should be.
4-5.A written acknowledgment.4-26.A day dream.
6-7.Such and nothing more.2-11.A talon.
10-11.A bird.19-28.A pigeon.
14-15.Opposed to less.F-7.Part of your head.
18-19.What this puzzle is.23-30.A river in Russia.
22-23.An animal of prey.1-32.To govern.
26-27.The close of a day.33-34.An aromatic plant.
28-29.To elude.N-8.A fist.
30-31.The plural of is.24-31.To agree with.
8-9.To cultivate.3-12.Part of a ship.
12-13.A bar of wood or iron.20-29.One.
16-17.What artists learn to do.5-27.Exchanging.
20-21.Fastened.9-25.To sink in mud.
24-25.Found on the seashore.13-21.A boy.
10-18.The fibre of the gomuti palm.

This introduction to crossword puzzles is provided by kind permission of Sik Cambon Jensen, and is excerpted from his thesis, "Design and implementation of Crossword Compilation Programmes using serial approaches. Use of Artificial Intelligence will be considered in order to make 'human like' puzzles" [2/97].