Crosswords. They are good for the mind, provide hours of quiet entertainment and are oh, so satisfying to complete. But who do we thank for these wondrous word puzzles?
A brief history of crossword puzzles
Word puzzles have been around for centuries, with one of the earliest known puzzles dating back to the Roman town of Pompeii [i]. However, the first modern crossword is quite a bit younger. It was created by Arthur Wynne, a violinist turned journalist and was published in the New York World on December 21, 1913 [ii]. His “word-cross” puzzle, as it was first known, was a hit and he was asked to create another one for the following week. By January 11th, 1914, the puzzles were known as Cross-Words and were a regular fixture in the Fun section of the newspaper [ii].
While there are various forms of crosswords, the most commonly known is the American-Style Crossword. These are the neat and tidy puzzles that fit within a square grid.
People who create crosswords are known as Cruciverbalists. Isn’t that a mouthful?! Creating a crossword is not all fun and games – there are particular rules that must be followed. Here are a few of the rules [iii] [iiii]:
- All answers must be at least 3 letters long
- All answers must be actual words
- The maximum word count is 78
- Every letter square must be part of both a Down and Across answer
- The longest answers relate to a common topic, known as the theme (for themed puzzles)
- The pattern of black squares must be symmetrical so that when the puzzle is rotated 180 degrees, the pattern remains the same
Our crossword gift to you
Now, since December 21st is National Crossword Day (and our annual Harry Potter-themed Yule Ball is upon us), we have created a fun crossword in celebration. Feel free to solve it now or save it for December 21st. Consider it our holiday gift to you.
Since creating a crossword that follows the rules outlined above is extremely difficult, we threw most of the rules out the window! But, we think you'll have fun just the same.
Click to download and print a copy:
[i] T.S. (2013). Who invented crosswords. The Economist Explains. Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2013/12/19/who-invented-crosswords
[ii] Olsher, Dean. (2009). From square one: A meditation, with digressions, on crosswords. New York, NY: Scribner.
[iii] Bellotto, Sam. (2016). How to construct a professional crossword puzzle. Crossdown: Professional Puzzle Development. Retrieved from http://www.crossdown.com/howtomake.htm
[iiii] Gaffney, Matt. (2014). How crosswords puzzle are really made. Mental Floss. Retrieved from http://mentalfloss.com/article/58828/how-crossword-puzzles-are-made