cruciverbalist (krüsəˈvərbələ̇st)

The first crossword puzzle was created by Arthur Wynne, editor of the New York World, and published in 1913. (Image from commons.wikimedia.com)

If you’ve been passing time conquering crossword puzzles during quarantine, you can thank Arthur Wynne. In 1913, Wynne, the editor of the New York World, decided that readers needed a new challenge in the Fun section of the newspaper. Wynne designed a Word-Cross (later changed to Crossword) to engage and amuse readers.

However, it wasn’t until 1924, when Simon and Schuster published the first collection of crosswords that solving these puzzles became a national craze. The Cross Word Puzzle Book, a compilation of crosswords from the New York World, was a huge success, selling over 100,000 copies. Newspapers clamored to get crosswords published in their pages in an effort to feed the public’s newfound obsession.

The New York Times decided to publish its first crossword on Sunday, February 15, 1942 in an effort to provide civilians with an escape from troubling WWII news. The crossword became a daily feature on September 11, 1950. Today, cruciverbalists consider the crosswords published in The New York Times the best puzzles in the world.

Cruciverbalist comes from the Latin words crux, meaning cross and verbum meaning word. A cruciverbalist is someone who is adept at creating or solving crossword puzzles.

Margaret Petherbridge Farrar, the first crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times, once stated, “You can’t think of your troubles while solving a crossword.” If you would like to escape into a crossword puzzle, try The New York Times daily mini crossword puzzle.

The solution to Wynne’s crossword puzzle can be found here.

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