What do Rosa Parks, Richard Nixon, Jesse Owens and crossword puzzles have in common? They were all born in the year 1913. In that year a journalist named Arthur Wynne published a “word-cross” puzzle in the New York World Sunday newspaper. Though it was diamond shaped, it had all of the features of crossword puzzles that we know and love today. The name evolved into crossword as the paper continued to publish the popular word puzzles.
It wasn't until 1924 that the first book of crossword puzzles was published. That was when the crossword craze really began. It joined other fads of the Roaring Twenties like goldfish eating, flagpole sitting, yo-yo's, and pogo sticks. Of course, not all of these fads survived (perhaps fortunately).
Besides crossword puzzles, some really beautiful things came out of the 1920s. In music, jazz surged in popularity and George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue was performed for the first time. In literature, F. Scott Fitzgerald published some of his most enduring novels including The Great Gatsby. In design, it was the beginning of Art Deco. That's how the world was when crossword puzzles came of age.
Crossword puzzles became popular closer to a time when entertainment required active participation. In those days, people actually played sports rather than watched them, told each other stories rather than turned on the television, and even sang songs rather than listened to an MP3. Like entertainment of yesteryear, crossword puzzles require your active participation. And this is a refreshing change for those of us who still enjoy a mental workout.
Today, nearly every major newspaper runs a crossword puzzle. Entire sections of bookstores are devoted to crossword puzzle books. (Thanks for choosing this one!) Indeed, crosswords are the most common word puzzle in the world.
Why do crossword puzzles continue to be so popular? Only you can answer that question since there are as many reasons to work a crossword puzzle as there are solvers. But perhaps it has something to do with the convenient marriage of fun and learning that crossword puzzles offer.