5 things you don’t know about the crossword

  1. On Dec. 21, 1913, the New York World put a puzzle called a “word-cross” in the paper’s Fun section. Several years later a typesetter made a mistake and flipped the phrase. The name stuck.
  2. The crossword became such a huge fad in the 1920s, sales of dictionaries spiked. A miniature dictionary was invented that could be worn like a wristwatch.
  3. Staid publications such as the New York Times and The Times (in London) ridiculed the cultural phenomenon. NYT called the crossword a “primitive sort of mental exercise.” The Times wrote an editorial warning of “An Enslaved America.”
  4. The crossword craze revived words that were in danger of dying out of usage. Among them, words that are common today: Acute, adapt, amend, ban, carp (as a verb), cite, curt, eke, ire, leer (as a verb), nee.
  5.  The crossword shares a birthday month with the game it helped spawn: Scrabble was copyrighted 65 years ago this month.

h/t Smithsonian Magazine’s Past Imperfect blog