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Happy 100th, Word-Cross!

December 21st, 2013 marks the centenary of the American-style crossword, the hundredth anniversary of what is now considered the very first crossword puzzle. What started as a single "Word-Cross" puzzle created by Arthur Wynne that ran in the New York World on December 21st, 1913 has not only lasted, it has grown, so much so that there are many new crosswords created every day.

At this turn of the crossword century, we can look backwards and forwards at the same time. A lot has stayed the same, but even more has changed. Today, constructors frequently use software aids to help them make puzzles and more and more solvers solve on their digital devices, using products like Puzzazz. The New York Times says they have more than 100,000 subscribers to their Premium Crosswords, and that number is sure to grow.

This page collects anniversary puzzles by a variety of constructors, a wide assortment of articles on the crossword's 100th anniversary, news videos and on-camera interviews, interviews with constructors and editors, some physical celebratory books, and even a poem.

As we like to say around here, enjoy!

Anniversary Puzzles

Puzzle constructors are creative people, so there have been lots of anniversary puzzles created in celebration of the centenary. Some, we're proud to host here on Puzzazz, others are available elsewhere online. Here is a sampling (click on any image or link to access the puzzle).

by Roy Leban

by Parker Lewis

by Ed Sessa

by Joe Krozel

by John J. Bulten

by Finn Vigeland

By special arrangement with GAMES Magazine, here is the tribute to Arthur Wynne created by Mike Shenk and published in GAMES for the 75th anniversary, in 1988. Download PDF

The New York Times' 100th anniversary puzzle by Todd Gross and David Steinberg, and edited by Will Shortz
(NYT Premium Crosswords subscription required)
Download PDF or Solve in Puzzazz on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch

Google's Doodle puzzle by Merl Reagle (read Google's blog post about it here)

Al Jazeera America's anniversary puzzle by Francis Heaney (solution here)

The Orange County Register's special crossword for the centennial by David Steinberg (also includes a copy of Arthur Wynne's first puzzle)

CBS Sunday Morning's 100th aniversary puzzle by Fred Piscop (solution here)

The Week's "Solve of the Century" by Matt Gaffney.

Neville Fogarty's 100 Years of Solvitude.

Andy Kravis's tribute puzzle I Volunteer as Tribute from his site, Cruciverbalist at Law. Andy was the winner of the Million Second Quiz.

Eric Agard's C SPAN tribute puzzle from his site, GLUTTON FOR PUN.

Patrick Blindauer's "Turning 100" tribute puzzle.

In a Century of Letters..., an anniversary cryptic crossword by Kevin Wald (if you're new to them, Puzzazz has a great guide on how-to solve cryptic crosswords)

And the one that started it all, on the web site of The New York World, which is still around. FUN's Word-Cross Puzzle, by Arthur Wynne, published in FUN Magazine, part of the The New York Sunday World, December 21, 1913.

All puzzles are copyrighted by their individual owners.

Articles & more

Here are some of the best articles we've found about the crossword's anniversary:

The Daily Beast:
The Crossword Puzzle Turns 100: The ‘King of Crossword’ on Its Strange History

The crossword puzzle is a weird thing. It’s such an ingrained part of so many of our lives that we just assume it’s been around forever, and yet when we hear just how old it is—100!? Really!?—it’s shocking.
Al Jazeera America:
Celebrating 100 years of cr_ssw_rds

Crossword fanatics — and there are many — say the 100-year-old crossword isn't in its golden years but in its golden age. "Crosswords have never been more interesting than they are now," says Shortz.
The Washington Post:
CROSSWORD GOOGLE DOODLE: Behind the scenes, here’s how today’s 100th-anniversary interactive puzzle came out letter-perfect

Asked about why the crossword endures with unflagging popularity a century later, Reagle says: “Whether you’re getting coffee or going to work ... it’s the idea of getting a daily fix.”
The Toronto Star:
The crossword is 100 years old and thriving

The name got transposed and the grid got squared, but 100 years later Wynne’s puzzle is still a winner, evolving through the decades to reflect the language and culture of the times.
(plus some crossword trivia)
100 Years Later, the Crossword Is Still the King of Puzzles

One century later, crosswords are still a beloved form of entertainment, although they’re migrating from dead trees to the web. Reagle says that his puzzles used to be written in Times font, but with newspaper column inches growing more scarce, he’s had to shift to Ariel Narrow.
The Wall Street Journal:
A Red-Letter Day for the Crossword

Dec. 21 is an auspicious day for the puzzling world: It's the crossword's centennial. Or is it?
Past Imperfect: What’s a 9-Letter Word for a
100-Year-Old Puzzle?

Historians of the crossword puzzle—yes, there are quite a few of them—generally date its first U.S. appearance to December 21, 1913, just about 100 years ago. That’s when Arthur Wynne of the New York World published what he called a “word-cross” in his paper’s Fun section. But a decade would go by before the crossword, as it was by then called—apparently due to a typesetter’s error—would become one of the biggest fads of the Roaring Twenties.
The Awl:
The Shape Of Clues To Come:
The Crossword At 100

by Ben Tausig

There have been highs and lows in the first hundred years. But, from the vantage of the archive, crosswords are transparently much more than a pastime. They are like dictionaries of human awareness. Every clue is a truth about the world on which the constructor and solver must shake hands.
  The Washington Post:
Happy 100th birthday to the crossword puzzle!
by Merl Reagle

On a snowy evening in the early 1900s, a newspaper editor at the New York World was hunched over his desk trying to think of something special for the Christmas issue. The puzzle appeared Dec. 21, 1913, and what 42-year-old Arthur Wynne had created was the first crossword puzzle. It was an instant success.
Tampa Bay Times:
Searching for the crossword inventor
by Merl Reagle

Thank you, Arthur Wynne, for creating this odd interlocking thing that gave me a career, and thank you, Kay, for solving the biggest "crossword puzzle" of all — whatever happened to the inventor.
The Express (UK):
An enduring crowd-pleaser is nearly 100 years old

They have long entranced, baffled and bamboozled us, leading to cross words and moments of triumph. Among the millions of Britons who do a crossword at least once a week is the Queen.
The Independent (UK):
One hundred years of solvitude: The crossword celebrates a century of wordplay

A century on from the first crossword, what is it about this seemingly trivial mental distraction that exerts such a hold over so many of us?
The Guardian (UK):
Alan Connor looks at the celebrations of the crossword and considers the next 100 years

let's pause and enjoy the fact that sudokus never arouse such passions.
The Guardian (UK):
Celebrating 100 years of the crossword

On the 100th anniversary of the crossword, Alan Connor argues that cryptics are easier than quicks.
SBS (Australia):
Crossword puzzle's 100th anniversary celebrated

David Astle, author of Cluetopia: "I was gobsmacked to realise that crosswords are in every culture where I went looking. Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, the Russian alphabet, even in Esperanto and sci-fi languages... Everywhere I looked there were crosswords and I think that’s another reason for their success and momentum because they are a universal phenomenon.
Entertainment Weekly:
The crossword puzzle turns 100:
4 ways to celebrate

We don’t expect you to throw a puzzle party for the occasion (though we wouldn’t judge), but we do have some low-key suggestions for celebrating the confounding hobby.
GAMES Magazine:
Crossword Puzzle Fever

A look back at the history of the crossword puzzle on its 100th anniversary. (not available online)


Videos and video interviews (some have overlapping content):

CBS Sunday Morning: (with article)
Happy 100th birthday, crossword puzzle!

Is the crossword as modern as ever? "Nowadays, people famously have shorter attention spans," said [Will] Shortz. "And think about a crossword: A daily puzzle has around 76 clues and answers, each one on a different topic. You're solving a puzzle. Your mind's jumping from one thing to the next. I think it's perfect for the modern age."
PennyDellPuzzles: Will Shortz on ...
100 Years of Crosswords
the Evolution of Crossword Puzzles
the Future of Crossword Puzzles

Three short interviews of Will Shortz by Peter Kanter of Penny Publications.
  CBS This Morning:
A Puzzling Anniversary

Video interview with Merl Reagle
CBS This Morning:
The crossword puzzle celebrates 100 years

What started out as a puzzle maker's brainstorm has become a daily tradition for millions. Mo Rocca reports on a big milestone for the crossword puzzle.


Here are some of the recent interviews:

Alex Vratsanos Interviews Will Shortz

An interview with Will Shortz, Crossword Editor for the New York Times since 1993
The Atlantic:
Party Down: 100 Years of the Crossword Puzzle

An interview with Deb Amlen, the official crossword blogger for the New York Times
Desert Valley Times:
Resident's puzzle to celebrate special day in NYT

An interview with Todd Gross, co-author of the New York Times' 100-year anniversary puzzle
Portland Monthly:
The Cruciverbalist

[Brian Greer] creates crossword puzzles for London’s Telegraph, Times, and Guardian, plus an occasional puzzle for the New York Times. His reach into some of the English-speaking world’s most respected papers makes Greer’s desk a global crucible of “cruciverbalism” — the art of crossword construction, which began 100 years ago this month when the New York World published the first modern puzzle.
  WHYY RadioTimes:
Interview with Merl Reagle

RadioTimes' Marty Moss-Coane interviews puzzlemaster Merl Reagle
WNYC News:
Word Up: Youth Fills in the Blanks as Crosswords Turn 100

Radio interview with young constructors Finn Vigeland and Zoe Wheeler, plus comments by Will Shortz and Ben Tausig
NPR's Morning Edition (audio with transcript):
Do Crossword Puzzles Really Stave Off Dementia?

On Dec. 21, 100 years ago, a paper in New York published the first crossword. It quickly became known as a game for the intelligent — even helping Britain recruit code-breakers during WWII. But there isn't much evidence that this brainy game can help stave off dementia. Adam Cole interviews Will Shortz.
CBC Radio:
Will Shortz on the crossword's 100th anniversary

NOTE: Click on small Listen button in upper right of article

To mark the date, Jian speaks to New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz -- an enigmatology grad who has reached mythic status in the world of crosswords. He reviews the history of the game and its enduring cultural appeal.

Crossword Centennial Books

On Crosswords: Thoughts, Studies, Facts and Snark About a 100-Year-Old Pastime, by constructor and writer T Campbell, a breathtaking exploration of three major, interrelated topics: crossword history, kinds of crosswords and how crosswords relate to everything else, with an introduction by Puzzazz Founder Roy Leban.
The Centenary of the Crossword: The Story of the World's Most Popular Puzzle, by cryptic crossword setter John Halpern. Forget riddles, conundrums, or that modern usurper Sudoku, the crossword is the original and best word puzzle and it has truly stood the test of time. a decade-by-decade history of the world's favorite word puzzle, from 1913 to total global domination, and a consideration of future solving and the next 100 years, with forwards by New York Times Will Shortz and The Times of London crossword editor Richard Browne.
The Curious History of the Crossword: 100 Puzzles from Then and Now, by Ben Tausig, an examination of the history of the crossword, from their evolution to what solvers expect today, plus puzzles old and new for you to solve. (read an excerpt)
Merl Reagle's 100th Anniversary Crossword Book, brand new lighthearted and highly entertaining brain teasers from the acclaimed, award-winning puzzlemaker Merl Reagle. Illustrations by award-winning cartoonist Jim Borgman add humor and character to this anniversary keepsake, a collector's item for ardent and casual solvers.
(Also available on Merl's web site)
Cluetopia: The story of 100 years of the crossword, by David Astle, crossword setter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, toasts 100 years of remarkable clues from around the world, through 100 mini-chapters, each one with a clue to crack.
100 Years, 100 Crosswords: Celebrating the Crossword's Centennial, 100 brand new puzzles by the nation's top constructors, celebrating the last 100 years, edited by Peter Gordon.
100 Years of Crosswords features 113 puzzles, including one representing each anniversary year, plus puzzles from Dell Sunday Crosswords and the Crosswords Club.

And a Poem

And, finally, here's a tribute to the crossword from Matt Jones, in poetic form:

'Twas the Nite Before Crosswas
by Clematt Joore

'Twas the nite before Crosswas; through my habitat
No fauna's astir. Hey, not even a rat!
The etuis were hung near the ingle full on,
In hopes that St. Elia would be there anon;

The kids (sis and bro) were both snug and abed,
While acai berries and Ugli fruit danced in their head;
And mama in her snood, and the dog with its muzzle;
I'd just settled down for a tough Friday puzzle.

When out on the lawn there arose such a din,
I dropped my grid, rushing to see what came in.
Away to the window I hied like a flash,
Rent open the shutters and tossed up the sash.

The lunar display of the snowfall anew
Gave the luster of noontime to objects in view,
When, what to my quizzical eyes should show, a
Quite miniature dray, and eight eensy anoa!

With a wee old driver, so lively and spry, ah!
I knew in a sec it must be St. Elia.
More rapid than ernes his oxen they came,
And he oho-ed and aha-ed, and called them by name;

"Now, DACHA! now, DANZA! now, PARSER and PIXY!
On, COHO! on EROS! on, ODER and NIXIE!
To the top of the wall! to the top of the stoa!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away, anoa!"

As sere leaves ere the wild gale would fly,
When alit on an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up past the eaves the ungulates flew,
With the dray full of puzzles, and St. Elia, too.

And then, at an impasse, I heard on the roof
The clipping and clopping of each little hoof.
As I pensively held my pencil (like a boss),
Down the flue St. Elia came--not across!.

He was togged up in fur, from his pate to his foot.
His white raiment was checkered with ash and with soot;
A passel of puzzles he'd slung on his back
(Almost like a spider, carrying its sac).

His orbs -- how twinkly! his dimples so merry!
His cheeks were like asters, his nose of Bing cherry!
His mustachioed lip curled in an arc-like track,
While his sporting goatee was peppered white and black.

The nub of a briar pipe tight in his teeth,
Smoke encircled his head in a halo-like wreath;
His belly -- if you could envision that last pic --
It jiggled when he laughed, like a plateful of aspic.
He was not at all svelte, but not quite obese,
And I laughed on espial (with hahas and tehees)!
With a wink of his eye and a twist of the pen,
He soon led me to attack that grid once again;

He gave me sparse hints, at the same time gift-giving,
(I bet it's tough to lade stockings while eking out a living),
And cluing me in, with his finger on nose,
As he filled that last square, up the flue he arose!

He sprang to his dray, to his team gave a hallo,
And they flew, and they flowed like the juice of an aloe.
O'er the field he exclaimed, and it's he I would thank,

If you have additions or corrections to this page, please use the contact page.


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