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.
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.
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.
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.
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!*
*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!