On this day a hundred years ago, a journalist named Arthur Wynne published what is widely regarded as the first modern crossword puzzle. It appeared in the New York World, where it was called a “Word-Cross Puzzle.” By the 1930s most newspapers in America featured the games as well.
Scientific American put a toe in the water in the 1920s. We presented “Cross-Word” puzzles in February, March and April 1925, the first two created by Jack Barrett, who later popularized a form known as cryptic crosswords, producing them for The Nation from 1943 to 1947. The April puzzle had a different author, Albert Fitch of Central City, Nebraska, and a circular shape.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the answers to the clues in February and March 1925 were “technical, industrial or scientific terms” or “words frequently used in technical writing.” The solutions also all came from the pages of the issues containing the puzzles—some in the text, some in the advertisements. People who sent in fully correct solutions (complete with notification of the page, column and line number where the answer appeared in the issue) would earn a credit of a dollar toward a new subscription to the magazine, which cost $4 for a year ($5 for foreign subscriptions).
Find a pdf of the February 1925 puzzle here:
The 1925 games did not end of our involvement with the puzzles. For our December 2005, 2006 and 2007 issues, Patrick Merrell--an amazingly clever fellow who has contributed puzzles to the New York Times--created science-themed entries specifically for us. (I edited all three.)
As before, a number of the answers could be found in the pages of Scientific American, this time from the full year’s worth of issues. At the time, we did not know of the magazine’s past history with crosswords; John Rennie, then editor in chief, came up with the idea of tying the puzzles to our past articles.
Download a copy of the 2007 puzzle, titled “In Boxes,” here.
Download the harder, online only, version mentioned at the top of the puzzle above here.
Find the filled-in grid here.