I have fond memories of crossword puzzles. My Granny always seemed to have a crossword on the go, and so did Mom. Dad did them too. When I worked in the hair salon on Saturdays I always worked on the hardest puzzle of the week with Lorraine.

I haven’t done crosswords in years…perhaps I should start again….

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Repost: Six fascinating facts you probably didn’t know about crossword puzzles

(Dec 20, 2017 by Hollie Pratt-Campbell OurWindsor.Ca)

Did you know that Dec. 21 is recognized as Crossword Puzzle Day?

That’s because on Dec. 21, 1913, journalist Arthur Wynne published what he called a “word cross” puzzle in the newspaper New York World. The puzzle was the first of its kind to embody most of the features of the crossword puzzles we know and love today, and as such Wynne is widely acknowledged as the inventor of the genre.

For the uninitiated, crossword puzzles typically take the form of a grid with black and white squares; puzzle solvers are challenged to fill in the white squares with the help of clues that correspond to numbers at the start of each word or phrase.

Here are five other fascinating facts you probably didn’t know about crossword puzzles:

1) Crossword puzzles were a subject of much controversy in their early days.

In 1924, The New York Times complained of the “sinful waste in the utterly futile finding of words the letters of which will fit into a prearranged pattern…This is not a game at all, and it hardly can be called a sport… [solvers] get nothing out of it except a primitive form of mental exercise, and success or failure in any given attempt is equally irrelevant to mental development.”

The controversy raged on into 1925, with many arguing that this colossal waste of time and destroyer of productivity was nothing but a mere fad. By that year, nine Manhattan dailies and fourteen other big newspapers were carrying crosswords, according to Time Magazine. The magazine quoted opposing views as to whether “This crossword craze will positively end by June!” or “The crossword puzzle is here to stay!” In the same year The New York Times predicted with relief that “Fortunately, the question of whether the puzzles are beneficial or harmful is in no urgent need of an answer. The craze evidently is dying out fast and in a few months it will be forgotten.” In 1929, the paper declared, “The cross-word puzzle, it seems, has gone the way of all fads….”

2) One of crossword puzzles’ most vocal critics eventually came to become one of their most well known and prolific producers.

Ironically, The New York Times now produces one of the most popular crossword puzzle series in the world. It’s published daily via both the paper and its own app, and becomes increasingly difficult as the week progresses. The puzzles are created by a wide variety of freelance “constructors”, and submitted to the paper’s crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz, who has held this position since 1993.

3) Crossword puzzles were suspected as being an instrument of espionage during the Second World War.

Puzzles published in the British paper The Daily Telegraph raised some red flags for the British Secret Service in advance of the allied invasion of Normandy during Operation Overlord (a.k.a. D-Day). In 1944, codenames related to D-Day plans appeared as solutions to crosswords, and thus were the cause of some alarm.

What actually happened was that The Telegraph crossword puzzle creator, Leonard Dawe, was also the headmaster of Strand School, which was evacuated to Effingham, Surrey, during the war. Next to the school was a large camp where U.S. and Canadian troops were preparing for D-Day. The schoolboys regularly mingled with soldiers, and ended up picking up some words related to the mission such as “Utah”, “Omaha” and “Overlord”. Since Dawe had a habit of building the crosswords by creating a pattern, having the boys fill in the blanks, then coming up with clues for the words they inserted, enough of these words made their way into the puzzles to raise alarm. Dawe ended up being arrested by M15, but was later found innocent. 

4) Crossword puzzles are great for your brain.

A growing body of evidence suggests that crossword puzzles may benefit your brain, providing a “workout” for the mind, so to speak, and thus making it stronger. Some studies have shown that doing crosswords regularly may delay the loss of memory among those with dementia by more than 2.5 years; may preserve memory and cognitive function better than some medications; and provide benefits of cognitive training in older adults that may last as long as 10 years. (Source: The University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre)

Hint: “Cheating” at crossword puzzles by googling for clues can also expand your general knowledge and make you seem super smart in front of your colleagues.

5) There is a special name for those who love crossword puzzles.

The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines a cruciverbalist as “a person skillful in creating and solving crossword puzzles.”