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The World's First Crossword

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So you walk into your favorite coffee shop and for the umpteenth time you see that interesting person sitting alone at the corner table doing their morning crossword puzzle. You decide today is the day you are finally making your move. But you're still a little hesitant.

Well, why not try this:

"Excuse me. I have a question: do you know when the first crossword puzzle was published, and who constructed it?"

And when they stumble for an answer, you save the day:

"The answer is Arthur Wynne published the first one on December 21, 1913."

Stunned yet intrigued, they invite you to sit down. You proceed to wow them with additional details:

"Indeed, it was Arthur Wynne, an immigrant from England, who was tasked with inventing a new game for the New York World's Sunday "Fun" section. His "word-cross", as he called it, kinda looked like what we are accustomed to today. But there were some notable differences. First of all, it was diamond shaped with no internal black squares. One word was already filled-in. And clues were awkwardly given as a range of squares instead of directionally as Across and Down. By today's standards, the puzzle had a rather 'busy' look.

"Nevertheless, the crossword was a huge hit with the newspaper's readership. Other newspapers eventually printed their own puzzles and in 1924, the first collection of crosswords came out in book form. From this point forward, the appearance and design of crossword puzzles would start to become standardized."

"Oh, and what about the name change? How did word-cross become crossword, you might be thinking? Well, through a series of accidents, actually. First, an illustrator accidently reversed the word order with no objection from Wynne. Then later the hyphen was dropped through an accidental typo. In this way the name of the puzzle took its final form."

Your newfound friend is amazed at your wealth of knowledge and you spend the rest of your mornings together blissfully solving puzzles...

Ok, maybe this isn't the smoothest of introductions and it might not go down exactly this way. But for true cruciverbalists, who knows?

The printable PDF file below has four pages. The first three pages are three versions of Arthur Wynne's 1913 puzzle.

Version 1 is a faithful facsimile of the originally published puzzle.

Version 2 keeps the general layout of version one, but makes a few changes:

  • the grid is reproduced to make the image crisper (the original was an enlarged copy of a copy of a...)
  • the grid numbers are smaller so letters can be written in the squares (what were they thinking making them so big?)
  • the text is updated with a modern font (hey, times have changed!)
  • the instructions are omitted (after over 100 years of solving, you old pros should know what to do!)

Version 3 makes additional changes to the original. Those eager to solve without delay will find this version the most welcoming. This version has conventional grid and clue numbering, with the clues re-sorted accordingly and placed into the appropriate Across and Down columns.

The choice is up to you which version you attempt, but you will likely need the solution on the last page. Some of the answers are quite obscure. Good luck!

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Did you know?

Certified by Guinness World Records, the largest crossword puzzle (in physical size) in the US measures 7 feet by 7 feet and can be hung on a wall or conveniently folded for solving on your lap or kitchen table. It comes with a 100 page book packed with 28,000 clues for over 91,000 squares. If you get stuck, you can always check the 4 foot by 4 foot answer grid.

wall-size crossword puzzle with man standing next to it thinking

However, a still larger puzzle was published by Nikoli Co., Ltd on June 30, 2016. It measures nearly 130 square feet, has 244,971 blank squares, and 66,666 clues. It was created by 20 different crossword puzzle makers to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Japanese company.

man standing with back against stack of crossword puzzles

If these two puzzles are still too small for you, there is yet a bigger one according to Guinness. Verified on June 3, 2014, it took Hristo A. Yonitsov of Sofia, Bulgaria 14 years to write the 93,769 clues and craft the 984 foot long puzzle. The grid is spread over a hefty 1,000 sheets of paper and remains unpublished at this time.

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