Ex­plore The His­tory And Facts Of Cross­word Puz­zles

Riverbank News - - 209 LIVING -

Even though a type of word puz­zle was found in­scribed on the wall of an an­cient Egyp­tian tomb, the first known cross­word puz­zles are cred­ited to jour­nal­ist Arthur Wynne, who de­signed his ‘word-cross’ in 1913. Wynne’s puz­zle ap­peared in a Sun­day news­pa­per called New York World. Since its in­cep­tion, the cross­word puz­zle has be­come one of the world’s most rec­og­niz­able puz­zles, at­tract­ing en­thu­si­asts from all over the world, and now ap­pear­ing in vir­tu­ally all news­pa­pers. Cross­word puz­zles are word games in which the an­swers cor­re­spond to num­bered clues. The words are put into a grid of hor­i­zon­tal and ver- tical squares to form com­pleted, in­ter­sect­ing words. When all of the words are supplied cor­rectly, the puz­zle is com­plete. In North Amer­ica and Great Bri­tain, cross­word grids tra­di­tion­ally have 180-de­gree ro­ta­tional sym­me­try. The di­a­gram, or place­ment of black squares within the grid, must be sym­met­ric di­ag­o­nally. This means that the pat­tern of the puz­zle will ap­pear the same if the puz­zle is turned up­side down. Amer­i­can cross­word puz­zles con­form to a set of es­tab­lished rules made pop­u­lar by pub­lisher Si­mon & Schus­ter, the orig­i­nal cross­word puz­zle pub­lisher. The stan­dard puz­zle grid size is 15x15. How­ever, 17x17, 19x19 and 21x21 also are used. Smaller 13x13 also are ac­cepted. Many cross­word puz­zles do not use two-let­ter words, and three-let­ter words are kept to a min­i­mum. In ad­di­tion, ev­ery let­ter square must be part of both an Across and a Down word. Cross­word rules are dif­fer­ent in other parts of the world. For ex­am­ple, in Ja­pan, the cor­ner squares of a cross­word puz­zle must be white. De­spite once pub­lish­ing a state­ment de­scrib­ing cross­words as a ‘sin­ful waste in the ut­terly fu­tile find­ing of words the let­ters of which will fit into a pre­ar­ranged pat­tern’ in 1924, The New York Times rou­tinely pro­duces what many con­sider to be the world’s most chal­leng­ing cross­word puz­zles. Stan­ley New­man is cred­ited with com­plet­ing a New York Times cross­word faster than any­one in his­tory. In 1996, New­man com­pleted a cross­word in two min­utes, 14 sec­onds. Cross­word puz­zles ap­pear in news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines and kids’ ac­tiv­ity books and are even used in school lessons to sup­ple­ment vo­cab­u­lary lessons. Do­ing these puz­zles also may be good for one’s health. Ac­cord­ing to a Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley study, cross­word puz­zles may help in the fight against Alzheimer’s dis­ease. Re­searchers found that the more of­ten some­one en­gaged in men­tally stim­u­lat­ing ac­tiv­i­ties such as cross­words, the less buildup of beta-amy­loid plaques in the brain, which are hall­marks of the dis­ease. Do­ing cross­word puz­zles also may of­fer a dis­trac­tion that helps peo­ple re­duce stress. Cross­word puz­zles have a sto­ried his­tory. They are com­pleted recre­ation­ally and in com­pe­ti­tions, and cru­civer­bal­ists look for­ward to new puz­zles in their news­pa­pers ev­ery week.

The cross­word puz­zle is one of the world’s most rec­og­niz­able puz­zles, at­tract­ing en­thu­si­asts from all over the world, and ap­pears in vir­tu­ally all news­pa­pers.

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