Anniversary Post: Crossword Puzzle

Crossword PuzzleOn This day in 1913, the first ever modern crossword puzzle was published in the New York World. It was designed by an immigrant from Britain, Arthur Wynne. You can see it there on the left. It contains all the things we expect from a crossword puzzle — namely, clues and crisscrossed words.

Wynne named his invention a “Word-Cross Puzzle.” Apparently this changed a couple of weeks later when a typesetter screwed up and printed it as “Cross-Word.” The name stuck. I have to assume it is because “crossword” sounds better than “wordcross.” Just the same, “Sudoku” hardly trips off the tongue.

If I didn’t know me, I would assume that I would be into crossword puzzles. I’m not. It reminds me kind of like my experience with chess. I was horrible at the game until I reached a certain critical mass of information. I did this by analyzing grandmaster games until a switched flipped and I understood what was really going on in games.

When I look at crosswords, I’m stunned. It makes no sense at all to me. For example, I was looking at this one at 24-25 with the clue, “Found on the seashore.” I thought, “That’s crazy! What two letter word is found at the seashore?!” The answer is, “Sand.” So you see, I can’t even figure out the basic mechanics of the game.

But someday, I would like to become a crossword puzzle person. As it is, I think my Sudoku skills are slipping a bit. The last really hard one I tried, I did not manage to finish. I think that’s the first time that’s happened to me since I started doing them about eight years ago. But in my defense, I was probably drunk and didn’t spend that long on it. Given that I went through an obsessive Sudoku period, maybe I should avoid the crosswords altogether.

10 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Crossword Puzzle

  1. The numbers are too big. I wonder why it became popular with that problem since most people will be like you and assume that the box is already filled in with the number which means the word can only be two letters long.

    I know that you are supposed to write in the box with the number so I knew it was four boxes across but still.

    Crossword puzzles do have one advantage, sometimes they let you insult people like in the movie Hot Fuzz.

    • Yes, it seems like an awfully strange way to format it. But clearly people figured it out and liked it. Or maybe not. At that time, I’m not sure how much feedback they got.

      I really like that film — more than Sean of the Dead, actually. But I don’t remember it. The last time I saw it was many years ago. That’d be a good one for Christmas!

      • They probably got a few letters. Or maybe it was telegrams. All I remember is that the White House use to get stacks of them on important issues of the day according to various bios of FDR I have read.

        Yeah, of the three, Hot Fuzz is the best, Shaun then that stupid pub movie that made zero sense. Still miles above any Sandler film so it did have that going for it.

        • Even as I wrote that, I was thinking about The Truth where they get a pile of letters the next day after the first issue. So yeah. Plus, I’m sure when they published the answers, people figured it out.

          Yes, I don’t know what’s wrong with the world. Adam Sandler makes some of the worst films known to man.

          • I don’t know either. Why on earth to people go to see that kind of dreck? It is like I get you want to watch something lighthearted and that doesn’t require much thought but use some taste people!

            • I think people keep waiting for Happy Gilmore. Although even that isn’t nearly as good as many seem to think. And as the high point of a career it’s pathetic.

  2. Here’s a useful thing to know. The NYT crosswords are sorted by difficulty and published easiest-to-hardest weekly. So Monday’s will always be the easiest, Tuesday a little harder and so on, through the hardest on Saturday. (Sunday puzzles are largest of all and always have some fun theme or twist, but they aren’t necessarily the hardest to solve.)

    If you start with Mondays you’ll be up to speed (and bored by Monday puzzles) in no time.

    • That’s one of the few crossword clues I knew! :-)

      The truth is, I’ve never sat down and tried to do any crossword at all. I think I’d like watching someone who is good do one. They seem cryptic to me — like they are written in their own special language that I don’t quite understand. But like I said: I don’t need another obsession!

  3. The documentary “Wordplay” has some neat speed solving in it. Plus one of the coolest puzzles. In 1996 the Times ran a puzzle with the clue “tomorrow’s headline.” Turned out the puzzle had two solutions, based on the answer to that clue. It could work with either “BobDolewins” or “Clintonwins.”

    Elizabeth — that pub one WAS weird. I liked the stoner alien one, though!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *