The History of Crossword Puzzles
According to Adrienne Raphel, “It’s hard to imagine modern life without the crossword.”
In a 1924 editorial headlined A Familiar Form of Madness, the NY Times expressed its disdain for that vulgar new entertainment, known as the “cross-word”. A year later they wrote “The craze evidently is dying out fast and in a few months it will be forgotten.” How and why this craze arose and has persisted, as well as the cultural history of crosswords and the “puzzling people who can’t live without them” is the focus of this class. The very first puzzle in 1913 was in the shape of a diamond, or perhaps as close to a Christmas wreath as newspaper graphics of the time could provide. The clues were straightforward — “What we should all be” yielded the answer “MORAL” — but the essential idea of a modern crossword, an interlocked array of words in which each solution provides clues to the next, was there. And the rest, as they say, is history.
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