5 Things You Didn't Know About Crossword Puzzles

December 21st commemorates the birth of a challenging word game enjoyed by millions around the world. On December 21, 1913, the first crossword puzzle was published in the New York World newspaper. 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. Journalist Arthur Wynne from Liverpool receives credit as the inventor of the word game we know today. He created what is considered the first known published crossword puzzle. The puzzle appeared in the December 21, 1913, edition of the New York World newspaper. 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, with pencils in hand.

Crossword Puzzles Were Suspected of Sending Secret Messages During The War The British Secret Service became concerned that via the crossword puzzles published in the Daily Telegraph, secret codes were being passed onto the enemy prior to the Allied attack on Normandy during Operation Overlord, otherwise known as "D-Day". Code names related to D-Day preparations—such as "Overlord," "Utah" and "Omaha"—were appearing as answers to crosswords in 1944, and therefore raised some red flags. Leonard Dawe, the author of the crosswords in the British paper, ended up being arrested.  It was determined later that he was innocent of any attempts at espionage.


The New York Times Initially Refused to Offer Crossword Puzzles In Their Paper In early 1924, the New York Times declared crossword puzzles a "sinful" waste of time, claiming that the game was a destroyer of productivity and nothing but a mere fad. The New York Times predicted "The craze evidently is dying out fast and in a few months it will be forgotten." In 1929, the paper declared that the game had indeed faded away like all fads eventually do.

Crossword Puzzles In The New York Times Began Because Of The War One of crossword puzzles' most vocal critics eventually came to become one of their most well known and prolific producers. 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 might actually be a good idea to occupy people’s minds and give them something to do if a blackout occurred. Ironically, The New York Times now produces one of the most popular crossword puzzle series in the world. The puzzles are created by a wide variety of freelance “constructors”, and submitted to the paper’s crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz, who holds a degree in enigmatology (in other words, puzzles). 

Crossword Puzzles Can Help Make Your Brain Stronger There is growing evidence to suggest that tackling crossword puzzles can help give your brain a workout. According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, crossword puzzles can help keep the memory sharp. More specifically, it was shown that completing crossword puzzles may delay memory loss in patients with dementia by over 2.5 years. The game may also help preserve cognitive function that can last as long as ten years.