Where does it come from?
Word puzzles have existed for ages, but when did the crossword puzzle as we know it today come into play? To answer this question we’ll take a brief look at the history of the crossword puzzle.
The oldest word game we know of is a sator square that was found in the ruins of Pompeii, which means it dates back to the Roman Age and is at least 1938 years old. Although we have no material evidence of earlier word puzzles, it is very probable that simple word games have existed for much longer than that.
But when was the crossword puzzle first invented? To answer this question it is important that we first define what the requirements are for a word puzzle to qualify as a crossword puzzle.
The features of the crossword puzzle
There exists quite a bit of dispute about what puzzle deserves the title of ‘the first crossword puzzle ever’, because many of the older puzzles existed in different formats. to en all discussion, we’ll take a look at what todays prerequisites are for crossword puzzles.
1. The grid must be symmetrical around the diagonal, which means that the grid stays the same if you rotate it 180°.
2. You can’t have too many black squares. There are no strict rules, but no more than 16% black squares is commonly accepted.
3. No unkeyed letters. (letters that only appear in one word) Every letter has to appear in both an across and down word.
4. The minimum word length is 3 letters.
5. The black squares can’t cut the grid in separate pieces.
6. Long words must be placed symmetrically.
7. Words can only be used once per grid.
8. Made up words are not allowed.
If we take those 8 rules into account, the first crossword puzzle that resembles today’s form the most was the ‘word-cross’ puzzle and was invented about 100 years ago,so in the grand scheme of word puzzles it’s a relatively new game.
The first crossword puzzle
The first ‘word-cross’ puzzle was published in the New York World on december 21, 1913. It was written by Arthur Wynne, a Brit that migrated to the United States in the 1920’s.
He was the first person to introduce boxes in which the users could fill in letters. He was also the first person to incorporate black boxes in his puzzles. This form is still used today, with the exception of the numbering method.
New sorts of Crossword puzzles
Over the years, the crossword puzzle evolved and many more variations were invented.
You have the cipher crossword, which uses ciphers instead of words.
Fill-in crosswords, in which you get all the words that fit in the grid and you have to figure out where each word should go.
Arrowords, in which the clues are in the grid with arrows that tell you in which direction you have to fill in the words.
There are countless more sorts of crossword puzzles and even today new variations are invented.
Crozzbi, for example, is a bilingual crossword puzzle in which you get the clues in one language and you have to fill in the correct words in a different language.