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Random Thoughts

Puzzle Link

Hudson Cooper
Posted 9/30/22

My addiction to trying to solve word games began in elementary school. In the library I saw a copy of “Highlights Magazine.” Holding my blue Crayola crayon, I flipped through the pages …

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Random Thoughts

Puzzle Link


My addiction to trying to solve word games began in elementary school. In the library I saw a copy of “Highlights Magazine.” Holding my blue Crayola crayon, I flipped through the pages looking for something to color. Instead, I found a page with my initial crossword puzzle. I saw the first clue that simply said, “A yellow fruit.” Seeing six empty squares, I used my trusty crayon and filled in the word “banana.”  And just like that, my lifelong hunger for word games began.

NOTE TO MY READERS: this column contains three clues, each in parenthesis. Solve the clues to get the word to fit in each sentence. The answers are at the end of the column. No peaking!

Crossword games were introduced to America by Arthur Wynne who was the manager of the jokes and puzzles supplement in a newspaper called the “New York World.” For the 1913 Christmas edition he did a version of a word-cross puzzle he remembered from his childhood in (1. Birthplace of the Beatles), England. He designed a diamond shaped grid with numbered clues. He entered the word “Fun” at the top and gave the concept of his “word-cross” puzzle to the newspaper’s illustrator. Prior to going to press, the illustrator changed the game’s name to “Cross-word.” It became so popular that other newspapers included their own versions. Wynne’s puzzle with its challenging and sometimes whimsical clues became the norm for American newspapers and magazines. 

In 1924 the newly founded publishing (2. Capt. Kirk’s starship), Simon & Schuster, was looking for a book to popularize their company. Richard Simon’s aunt was a huge fan of puzzles. She convinced him to publish a book of crossword puzzles. The first editions came with a pencil. But unsure of how it would sell and afraid it would ruin their reputation as a literary publisher, they did not include the company’s name on the book. The book was a tremendous success selling more than 100,000 copies. Simon & Schuster pushed sales by forming the Cross Word Puzzle League of America.

The members of the league produced a set of rules to be followed by anyone designing crossword puzzles. For example, the grid had to be symmetrical and no more than one-sixth of the squares could be blackened. Over the years they added other rules including banning two letter answers.

Meanwhile the puzzle solving world was waiting with bated breath to see if the Big Kahuna would publish a crossword in their newspaper. By the way if you have bated breath, a quick swish with mouthwash will abate the bate. Also, the Big Kahuna is not a Hawaiian newspaper. A Big Kahuna is the top person or thing in a situation. In this case, I was referring to The New York Times.

In 1924, the same year Simon & Schuster published its book, a columnist in the Times called crossword puzzles a “sinful waste with solvers getting nothing out of it except a primitive sort of mental exercise.” 

In 1941, eleven days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 18th should be remembered as another day that lives in infamy by fans of crossword puzzles. That was the day the editor of the Sunday edition of The New York Times sent a note to the publisher saying, “We ought to proceed with the puzzle, especially in view of the fact it is possible there will be bleak blackout hours. If not that, then certainly a need for relaxation of some kind.”

On February 15, 1942, The Times became the last major metropolitan newspaper to publish a weekly crossword puzzle. In 1950 it became a popular daily feature in the newspaper. Margaret Farrar was the first editor of the New York Times puzzle. She served in that position until 1969.

Crossword puzzle fever in America spurred an (3. Snow disaster on a mountainside) of word puzzles and related television games. But few can match the craze created by the New York Times when they released Wordle. The game was invented by James Wardle who, as you do to solve the puzzle, changed one letter to make it Wordle. Suffice it to say that Wordle is highly addictive and entertaining. Solving the daily Wordle is tantamount to finishing the Sunday Times crossword puzzle.

Answers: 1. Liverpool; 2. enterprise; 3. avalanche

Hudson Cooper is a resident of Sullivan County, a writer, comedian and actor.


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