Saturday, December 21, 2013

Across And Down

Believe it or not, the first crossword puzzle was published 100 years ago today in the New York World. (The first Believe It Or Not column wouldn't appear until several years later.)  It was called a "word-cross" puzzle then, which actually sounds better to me.

The form was popular right away, and before too long became a craze.  Many thought it a passing fad, but, as we know, the popularity of crossword puzzles has remained sturdy through the years.  They're pretty much in every newspaper, even a publication as august as The New York Times, which was able to resist comic strips.

It's a pretty good format.  It required a lot of varied, specific knowledge, and the more you do the better you get at it. Part of the fun is constantly attacking the puzzle, wearing it down, getting clues you didn't previously understand. (I think how well-written the clues are is the secret to a good crossword.)

It's fascinating to discover that so many things that are givens in our world are relatively new.  I wonder the puzzles felt like when they were a novelty.  I was thinking it may have been like Sudoku is now, except 1) it really isn't and 2) Sudoku is actually as old as crossword puzzles, it was just forgotten for a long time.

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