History of crosswords

While puzzles similar to crosswords featured in The Stockton Bee from 1793-1795, it was in 1862 the actual phrase of “crossword puzzle” made its first appearance. 

With the first crossword puzzles appearing in 19th century England and had basic clues. Nowadays, they are the most popular word game in the world. 

While widespread credit has been given to Eugene Maleska for the puzzle that ran in the New York Times, the phrase itself appeared sooner. Crossword puzzles began appearing in 1873 editions of the St. Nicholas magazine, with others appearing in Italian magazines in 1890. 

It was in 1913 that an English journalist published a puzzle called “word cross”, and this puzzle featured many of the same features that we see in crossword puzzles today Play the world's first Crossword.

So, while there are many claims to being the first crossword puzzle, it is the 1913 puzzle that is credited as the first, and thus the journalist, Arthur Wynne, as the inventor. 

It didn’t take long for the crossword to spread, with the Pittsburgh Press publishing them in 1916, and the Boston Globe in 1917.

By the 20’s the crossword puzzle had enraptured everyone, with crosswords appearing in comic strips indicating that everyone was hooked. 

It was in 1924 that that Simon & Schuster first published a book of crossword puzzles that came with a pencil attached to it. It was a hit and a craze. With puzzlers rushing into libraries to gain access to encyclopedias in hopes of solving their puzzles, it was clear that New York was gripped. This led to a member of the clergy dubbing puzzlers as having “the mark of a childish mentality”, and even The New York Times complained they were a waste of time. 

For years following various New York papers printed stories about the craze was dying out, they were all wrong- however, the New York Times resisted for over a decade, before finally giving in and printing their first crossword in 1942. It is now the most popular puzzle in the US, and the most difficult. 

To this day Simon & Schuster are still publishing crossword books with the original series ending in 2007, after printing 258 volumes. However, a mega series has been released three times a year since 2008, with each contained 300 puzzle. 

The cryptic crossword arrived on US shores in 1968 and was introduced by Stephen Sondheim, composer and lyricist. 

Guinness World Records listed Roger Squires of England as the most prolific of crossword compilers. As of May, 2007, he had published 66,666 crosswords, which was the equivalent of two million clues. As a setter he has contributed to The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Financial Times, and The Daily Telegraph. 

Additionally, Squires holds the record for the longest word that has ever been used in a published crossword, the infamous Welsh town with a 58 letter name: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, which featured as an anagram.