Free Puzzles: Word Cross, Crosswords, and Acrostics

A crossword puzzle made up of white and black boxes sits below the text: Have You Been Bitten by the Cross Word Puzzle Bug Yet?

“Have You Been Bitten by the Cross Word Puzzle Bug Yet?” The Seattle Star (Seattle, WA), October 11, 1924.

Is there anything more satisfying than sitting down with a good cup of coffee or tea and working your way through the Sunday crossword puzzle? Or perhaps you carry a book of puzzles with you when you travel, or even have a crossword puzzle app on your phone. If you enjoy a good crossword puzzle, then you are like millions of others who have enjoyed these puzzles since the early 1900s.

A hand-drawn crossword puzzle in the shape of a diamond with clues in small print beneath.

“FUN’s Word-Cross Puzzle,” World (New York, NY), December 21, 1913, Fun Section, p.6.

The earliest crossword puzzle has been attributed to Arthur Wynne, whose puzzle appeared in the New York World on December 21, 1913 (pictured above). Word puzzles such as acrostics had already been popular in newspapers, but this new format took off quickly as “word-cross” puzzles, or crosswords, began appearing in various newspapers in the U.S.

Newspapers tried different ways to make their puzzles stand out from their competitors. Some puzzles were fun shapes, although they kept the same puzzle format of interlocking words discovered through clues. Others used the spaces between words to form patterns.

A crossword puzzle made up of blank and back squares in a diamond shape.

“The Daily Cross Word Puzzle,” The Omaha Morning Bee (Omaha, NE), February 26, 1925.

In the upper left corner a crossword puzzle is formed with the black squares making a circular pattern. Clues for the puzzle surround it on the page.

“Today’s Cross-Word,” The Indianapolis Times, (Indianapolis, IN), March 10, 1925.

As with many other early puzzles printed in newspapers, crosswords were turned into a competition. Prizes were awarded to those who solved the puzzles quickly and correctly.

A crossword puzzle made up of blank and black squares is beneath text that reads: Free Theater Tickets If You Solve This Cross Word Puzzle Correctly; Come on Now, Everyone Get Busy.

“Free Theater Tickets If You Solve This Cross-Word Puzzle Correctly; Come on Now, Everybody Get Busy,” The Omaha Morning Bee (Omaha, NE), January 25, 1925.

Just as in today’s newspapers, puzzles ranged in difficulty and size. There were small puzzles published in the pages of the children’s sections, and more complex puzzles with clues taken from the news of the day for adults.

An apple with a small crossword puzzle inside sits above a list of clues.

“Puzzles,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), February 3, 1935.

A crossword puzzle with dark squares forming patterns like a letter x sits in the upper left corner of a newspaper page with clues taking up a large space around it. Ads sit to the right with visible text that reads 20 percent discount sale.

“Crossword Puzzle,” Perth Amboy Evening News (Perth Amboy, NJ), December 26, 1924.

So if you enjoy a good crossword, I hope that you’ll take a look at some of these puzzles from the past and search for more through Chronicling America!*

Take a look at some of the other puzzles that we have featured through our blog as well, including Mazes, Rebuses, and Hidden Pictures.

*The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Follow @ChronAmLOC on Twitter for more newspaper history!

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