Who invented crosswords?

Who invented crosswords?

Dec 19th 2013, 23:50 by T.S.

THEY are a fixture in daily newspapers, varying enormously in difficulty and complexity. Crosswords range from simple puzzles that provide amusement in waiting rooms and coffee-breaks to fiendish tests of intelligence that were even used to recruit codebreakers during the second world war. But where and when did the modern crossword originate?Arranging words in grids is a pastime that dates back centuries. The earliest known example of the Sator square, a Latin palindrome consisting of the words SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS, was found scratched on a wall in the buried Roman town of Pompeii. Word puzzles of various kinds appeared in 19th-century English publications. But the genesis of the modern crossword lies in the Sunday edition of the New York World published on December 21st, 1913. Arthur Wynne, a violinist-turned-journalist, created a word puzzle, called “Word-Cross”, for the paper’s “Fun” supplement. It is the ancestor of all modern crosswords, but differs from them in several ways. For one thing, it is laid out on a diamond-shaped (rather than square) grid. Unlike many modern crossword puzzles, it contains no black squares. Its numbering system is also unfamiliar: rather than “2 across”, for example, it names clues using the numbers of the first and last squares in which the answer should be written. The answer to clue “2-3” is thus written between squares 2 and 3.

Wynne’s “Word-Cross” proved popular with readers, and became a regular weekly feature. At some point its name changed to “Cross-Word”—the result, according to crossword lore, of a typographical error. Other American newspapers soon copied the format, and crosswords became a national craze in the early 1920s. Their popularity prompted debate among medical types over their effects: was the act of solving a crossword soothing and satisfying, or could the frustration of being unable to solve a clue unbalance a delicate mind? (New forms of entertainment media, from novels to comic books to video games, often seem to trigger such “moral panics” about their effects.) The Times of London reported on crossword mania under the headline “An Enslaved America”.

But crosswords spread to other countries in the 1920s, and the Times published its own starting in 1930. Wynne’s original puzzle had been a quick or “definitional” crossword in which the clues define the answers: “What bargain hunters enjoy (5)” yields the answer “SALES”, for example. In Britain and its colonies, however, so-called “cryptic” crosswords proved more popular. These involve clues that usually mix a literal definition with a cryptic one, and rely heavily on anagrams, abbreviations, homonyms and other forms of word-play. By tradition, cryptic puzzles published in daily newspapers get more difficult throughout the week. There are now many national and cultural variations and customs in crosswords, with different types of grid, for example. (The Economist has even been known to publish occasionalcrosswords of its own.) But the basic pleasure of gradually filling in a grid of overlapping words, so that solving one clue makes it easier to solve the next, has remained common to all of them, ever since Wynne’s pioneering puzzle appeared a century ago.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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