5 Fascinating Facts You Didn't Know About Crossword Puzzles

On December 21, 1913, the first crossword puzzle was published in the New York World. Here are 5 fascinating facts you probably didn't know about crossword puzzles...


Crossword Puzzles Have Their Own Holiday December 21 is celebrated as Crossword Puzzle Day in honor of the first one that was published. It wasn’t long before doing crossword puzzles became a popular national pastime, and people around the country looked forward to their daily newspaper delivery, pencils in hand. Those who decide to celebrate Crossword Puzzle Day can make up their own, join a competition among other enthusiasts, or just enjoy some relaxing time while they exercise their brains.

The First Published Crosswords Were Controversial The New York Times wasn’t complimentary early in the days of crossword puzzles when it said it was not a game or sport and was a sinful waste of time to look for letters to words that fit into a pattern that was prearranged. By the following year, nine dailies in Manhattan and 14 additional large newspapers were offering crosswords. The New York Times, ever stubborn, declared crosswords dead in 1929 and held out for many years before including them in the newspaper in 1942.


Crossword Puzzles in the NYT Began Because of the War Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which brought America into World War II, an editor at the New York Times decided that publishing crossword puzzles was a good idea to occupy people’s minds and give them something to do if a blackout occurred. Published daily, freelancers construct the puzzles for the newspaper and internet and as the week goes along, they become more difficult, culminating in the huge Sunday puzzle. Will Shortz has been the editor and a contributor to The New York Times crossword puzzle since 1993. Shortz holds a degree in enigmatology (in other words, puzzles).

Crossword Puzzles Were Suspected of Sending Secret Messages During the War It was suspected during World War II that crossword puzzles were being used for espionage, especially some that appeared in The Daily Telegraph in Great Britain. This is because codenames related to the Normandy invasion appeared to be in the solution to the crosswords such as “Omaha,”  “Utah” and “Overlord.” Because Leonard Dawe, the puzzle creator, was at the Strand School, which had been evacuated to an area next to the place where preparations were being made for the invasion, he was arrested. It was determined later that he was innocent of any attempts at espionage.

Doing Crossword Puzzles Is a Healthy Brain Exercise Crossword puzzles are not only interesting but can boost vocabulary and brain function as well as improve memory. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, working crossword puzzles may slow the memory decline found in patients with Alzheimer's or other dementias by two or more years.