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The First Crossword Puzzle

Published in the New York World on December 21, 1913


On December 12, 1913, the very first crossword puzzle, created by Arthur Wynne, was published in the New York World newspaper.


Shape of the First Crossword Puzzle

Newspaperman Arthur Wynne was looking for something new to place in the eight-page "Fun" supplement that appeared in the Sunday edition of the New York World when he created what he at first called a "word-cross."

This first crossword puzzle was in a diamond shape, with a hole in the center, and had no black filler spaces. The very top square was numbered "1" and then numbers ran along the sides and along the inside of the puzzle, creating numbers for both the beginning and end of each word. Thus, each clue was labeled with two numbers, such as "10-11" (for an across clue) or "24-31" (for a down clue). However, there was an interesting exception to this particular puzzle; since Wynne had placed the word "FUN" in the top three spaces, a few clues referenced these letters (for example, clue "F-7")


The First Clues

For this first puzzle, Wynne included instructions: "Fill in the small squares with words which agree with the following definitions." A sampling of these clues include "a written acknowledgment," "a daydream," and "an aromatic plant." (The answers are receipt, reverie, and nard.). Unlike newer crossword puzzles, the clues of the very first crossword were not separated into "across" and "down" sections but just given in one list.


A Success!

When this first crossword puzzle appeared on that Sunday in 1913, it became an instant success. Although it was popular right after its introduction, in the 1920s, crosswords became a very popular fad.

Despite the extreme popularity of crossword puzzles in the 1920s, the New York Times waited until 1942 to publish its first crossword puzzle.

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