- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
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