Who Invented the First Crossword: A Brief History of the Popular Puzzle

Crossword puzzles have been a popular pastime for over a century, but who can be credited with inventing the first one? The answer to this question is not entirely clear-cut, as there are a few potential contenders for the title that crop up when you begin to search on your computer.

However, there is one name that is most commonly associated with the creation of the modern crossword puzzle: Arthur Wynne.

Wynne was a British-born journalist who moved to the United States in the early 20th century. He was working for the New York World newspaper in 1913 when he came up with the idea for a new kind of word puzzle. His creation, which he called a “word-cross,” was published in the newspaper’s Sunday supplement on December 21 of that year. The puzzle was an instant hit, and soon other newspapers began featuring similar puzzles in their own publications.

While Wynne is often credited with inventing the first crossword puzzle, there were other similar puzzles in existence before his creation. For example, there were word games in England in the 19th century that involved filling in a grid with words, and an Italian version called “per passare il tempo,” which translates to “to pass the time.” However, Wynne’s puzzle was the first to use a diamond-shaped grid and to include clues that were meant to be solved in a specific order.

The Birth of the Crossword Puzzle

In December 1913, Arthur Wynne, an editor at the New York World, was assigned to create a new game for the Sunday edition’s “Fun” supplement. The game he came up with was a word puzzle that he called a “word-cross.” This puzzle, which was the first crossword puzzle, was published on December 21, 1913.

The puzzle was diamond-shaped and had a total of 32 clues. It was different from modern-day crossword puzzles in that it did not have shaded squares, and the clues were not numbered. However, it was an instant hit with readers, and the New York World received many letters asking for more puzzles like it.

The success of the first crossword puzzle led to the creation of the term “crossword,” which was a combination of “cross” and “word.” The name stuck, and the crossword puzzle became a popular feature in newspapers and magazines around the world.

Arthur Wynne’s invention was a game-changer in the world of puzzles. It combined the challenge of a word puzzle with the satisfaction of completing a crossword. The crossword puzzle became a cultural phenomenon, and it remains a popular pastime to this day.

In conclusion, Arthur Wynne’s creation of the first crossword puzzle in December 1913 was a significant moment in the history of puzzles. It was a game that captured the imagination of readers and became a worldwide sensation.

The Evolution of Crosswords

Crosswords have come a long way since their inception in the early 20th century. The first crossword puzzle was invented by Arthur Wynne, a Liverpool journalist, in 1913. It was published in the New York World newspaper and was an instant hit. Since then, crosswords have become a staple in newspapers and magazines worldwide.

The basic structure of a crossword puzzle is a grid of black and white squares, with clues given for the words that are to be filled in the white squares. The words can be filled in horizontally or vertically, and they must intersect with other words at certain points. The difficulty of the puzzle can vary, from easy puzzles that can be solved in a few minutes to cryptic puzzles that can take hours or even days to complete.

The popularity of crosswords grew rapidly in the United States, and soon constructors were creating puzzles for newspapers and magazines across the country. In 1942, the New York Times began publishing its own crossword puzzle, which quickly became one of the most popular features of the newspaper.

Over time, the crossword puzzle has evolved, with new types of puzzles being introduced to challenge solvers. The cryptic crossword, which originated in the United Kingdom, is a type of puzzle that uses wordplay and tricky clues to make it more difficult to solve. Cryptic puzzles have gained a following in the United States, with many newspapers now featuring them alongside traditional crosswords.

Today, crosswords continue to be a popular pastime for people of all ages. With the rise of online puzzle sites, it’s easier than ever to find and solve crossword puzzles from around the world. Whether you’re a seasoned solver or a beginner, there’s a crossword puzzle out there for everyone to enjoy.

Notable Figures in Crossword History

Crossword puzzles have become a popular pastime for millions of people worldwide. Over the years, many notable figures have contributed to the development and evolution of crossword puzzles. Here are a few of the most notable figures in crossword history:

Margaret Petherbridge Farrar

Margaret Petherbridge Farrar is widely regarded as the “first lady of crosswords.” She was the first crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times, and she served in that role from 1942 to 1969. During her tenure, she established many of the standards that are still used in crossword puzzles today, including the use of black squares to separate words and the practice of using themes to tie the puzzle together.

Will Shortz

Will Shortz is another well-known figure in crossword history. He is the current crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times, a position he has held since 1993. Shortz is also the founder and director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, which is held annually in Stamford, Connecticut. He is known for his witty and creative crossword puzzles, and he has been featured in numerous documentaries and television programs.

D.S. Macnutt

D.S. Macnutt was a Canadian crossword puzzle constructor who is best known for his work on the “Cryptic Crosswords” series. He was a master of wordplay and puns, and his puzzles were often challenging and thought-provoking. Macnutt’s work helped to popularize cryptic crossword puzzles, which are still popular today.


Ximenes, whose real name was Derrick Somerset Macnutt, was a British crossword puzzle constructor who is widely regarded as one of the greatest crossword puzzle setters of all time. He was known for his strict adherence to the rules of crossword construction, and he developed a set of guidelines that are still used by many crossword puzzle constructors today. Ximenes was also a master of wordplay and puns, and his puzzles were often challenging and entertaining.

In conclusion, these are just a few of the many notable figures who have contributed to the development and evolution of crossword puzzles. Their work has helped to make crossword puzzles one of the most popular and enduring forms of entertainment in the world today.

The Art of Constructing Crosswords

Creating a crossword puzzle is a unique art form that requires a combination of skill, creativity, and patience. The crossword grid is typically a square or rectangular shape, divided into boxes that are filled with letters. Each box is numbered, and the numbers correspond to clues that are written either across or down.

The process of constructing a crossword puzzle begins with the creation of a grid. The grid can be of various sizes, ranging from small 7×7 grids to large 21×21 grids. The grid must have rotational symmetry, which means that it can be rotated 180 degrees and still look the same. Once the grid is created, the setter must fill in the boxes with words that fit the theme of the puzzle.

The clues are an essential part of the crossword puzzle. They are typically short phrases or sentences that provide hints to the words that are needed to fill in the boxes. The clues can be straightforward or cryptic, and they often contain puns, anagrams, or other wordplay.

Crossword puzzles often include entries that are considered “crosswordese.” These are words that are commonly used in crossword puzzles but are not used in everyday conversation. For example, “Aromatic plant” may be a clue for the word “Anise,” which is a spice commonly used in cooking.

The solvers of the crossword puzzle are the people who attempt to fill in the boxes with the correct letters. The setters are the people who create the crossword puzzle. The crossword puzzle community has a term for enthusiasts, cruciverbalists.

Crossword puzzles are typically published in newspapers, magazines, and books. They are categorized by difficulty, with Monday puzzles being the easiest and Saturday puzzles being the most challenging.

In conclusion, constructing a crossword puzzle is an art form that requires a unique combination of skills and creativity. The puzzle must be challenging yet solvable, and the clues must be clever and entertaining. The crossword puzzle has become a beloved pastime for millions of people worldwide, and it continues to evolve and thrive in the digital age.

Crosswords in Popular Culture

Crossword puzzles have been a popular word game for over a century, with their origins dating back to the early 1900s. Since then, they have become a staple in American newspapers, and their popularity has spread worldwide. Crosswords have even made their way into popular culture, appearing in various forms of media.

During World War I, crossword puzzles became a popular pastime among soldiers, and newspapers began to include them in their publications. This led to the rise of yellow journalism, where newspapers competed with each other to see who could publish the most challenging and entertaining crossword puzzles. The Times of London was one of the first newspapers to publish a crossword puzzle in 1930, and it quickly became a sensation.

In 1924, Simon and Schuster published the first collection of crossword puzzles, which was a huge success. This led to the creation of children’s puzzle books, which included crossword puzzles, word searches, and other games. Today, crossword puzzles can be found in newspapers, magazines, and even online.

In 2013, Google celebrated the 100th anniversary of the crossword puzzle with a Google Doodle. The Doodle featured a crossword puzzle that users could solve by clicking on the squares and typing in their answers. This was a nod to the crossword puzzle’s origins, as the first crossword puzzle was published in the New York World on December 21, 1913.

Crossword competitions have also become popular, with the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament being held annually since 1978. The tournament attracts crossword enthusiasts from all over the world, who compete to see who can solve the most challenging puzzles the fastest.

In recent years, crossword puzzles have become more accessible through the web, with many websites offering free puzzles for users to solve. This has made the word game even more popular, as people can now solve crossword puzzles from the comfort of their own homes.

Overall, crossword puzzles have become a beloved part of popular culture, with their challenging and entertaining nature captivating people of all ages and backgrounds.

The Impact of Crosswords

Crossword puzzles have been a popular pastime for generations, providing a fun and challenging mental exercise for people of all ages. They have had a significant impact on publishing and journalism, as well as on the mental health of puzzle lovers.

The crossword puzzle was invented in 1913 by Arthur Wynne, a journalist who worked for the New York World. The first puzzle was published on December 21, 1913, and it was an instant hit. The puzzle had a diamond shape, with no internal black squares, and included clues that were meant to be both challenging and entertaining.

The popularity of crossword puzzles quickly spread, and they became a regular feature in many periodicals. In February 1922, Pearson’s Magazine became the first periodical to publish a crossword puzzle with internal black squares, which is now the standard format for crossword puzzles.

Crossword puzzles have been used for various purposes, such as raising money for a mission or a fair. They have also been used as a tool for teaching, helping people learn new words and concepts. In addition, crossword puzzle compilers have used them as a way to express their creativity and challenge puzzle lovers.

Crossword puzzles have been enjoyed by people all over the world. In Italy, they are known as “per passare il tempo,” which means “to pass the time.” In the United States, they have become a staple of newspapers and magazines, providing entertainment for puzzle lovers of all ages.

Overall, crossword puzzles have had a significant impact on publishing and journalism, as well as on the mental health of puzzle lovers. They provide a fun and challenging mental exercise that can help keep the mind sharp and focused. As the plural of “is” and what artists learn to do, crossword puzzles have become a beloved pastime for people of all ages.