How Newspapers Discovered the Popularity of Crossword Puzzles

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It was on this day in 1913 that the first crossword puzzle appeared in a newspaper. It was the invention of a journalist, Arthur Wynne, who worked for The New York World. He called it a “Word-Cross,” but the typesetter made a mistake and called it a “Cross-Word” and the name stuck. Early on, the editors found it hard to avoid making errors in the puzzles, so they decided to drop it. Hundreds of readers wrote in to protest, so it was reinstated after one week.

In 1924, Richard Simon and Lincoln Schuster decided to set up a publishing house, and as they were casting about for ideas of what to publish, they decided to try a book of crossword puzzles. It sold half a million copies in less than a year.

The book’s success launched a worldwide crossword puzzle craze and helped put Simon & Schuster on the publishing map. The enthusiasm for crosswords also helped to drive up the sales for dictionaries and encyclopedias. By the end of the 1930s, most daily newspapers featured crossword puzzles. One of the last newspapers to do so was The New York Times, which finally began printing a daily puzzle in 1950.

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