Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Google Magic

This is my first venture into the world of Sunday Scribblings, a weekly writing challenge where the idea is to write something based on a prompt. This week’s brief was to pick a topic and do some research around it. I got a puzzle magazine in the post on Friday, which is perhaps why my thoughts turned to crosswords. In particular, I wondered why the American and British varieties look so different.

So, the first crossword puzzle appeared in the New York World in 1913, though it was compiled by a Brit – one Arthur Wynne of Liverpool. He called the puzzle a ‘word-cross’, and it was quite different from today’s crosswords, being a diamond shape with no black squares. It’s reproduced on Will Shortz’s website here.

Crosswords spread throughout other American newspapers in the 1920s, with the first book being published in 1924 (beginning a series that continues today). American crosswords commonly have a different shape from Wynne’s word-cross, but have a similar ‘cluster’ structure.

An adaptation of one of Arthur Wynne’s puzzles was published in the British Pearson’s Magazine in 1922, making it the first UK crossword. The first British newspaper to feature a crossword puzzle was the Sunday Express in 1924. Cryptic crosswords appeared in British periodicals soon after, pioneered by Edward Powys Mather in the Saturday Westminster and the Observer. They were introduced to America in 1968 by none other than Stephen Sondheim.

Frustratingly, the articles I’ve been reading online tell me that, over time, British crosswords adopted their familiar ‘grid’ pattern (which I already knew!), but not why. And I can’t find anywhere that does tell me why. Ah well, never mind.

But while I’m on the subject of different crossword styles, here are some from around the world. Crosswords in Germany and Brazil often have clues in the grid itself, like this. Japanese crosswords have their own distinctive style of grid, with one syllable per white square, rather than one letter as with other languages.

And how’s this for a word: the technical name for a crossword setter is a ‘cruciverbalist’.

My sources for this piece were Wikipedia, AskOxford and Will Shortz’s site.


At 3:22 AM, Anonymous swampgrrl said...

nice work. well done.
keep it up on scribblings....

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