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Sep
2016
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Example of a crossword puzzle

Crossword Puzzle Crosses Sea

London, England—November 2, 1924.

Arthur Wynne with newspaper

Arthur Wynne with newspaper. N.d. Newsbeast.

After immense success in American newspapers, British inventor of the crossword, Arthur Wynne, brought the puzzle to Britain in 1924. It first appeared in the Sunday Express.  

Although first intended to be called a “word-cross”, a printing error lead to the words being reversed. The popularity of crosswords became problematic because they were viewed as obstacles to workplace productivity across various social levels. Reestablishing normalcy in the interwar years relied on workplace productivity.

Once brought to Britain, the crossword puzzle spread infectiously throughout Europe. The inclusion of crossword puzzles in newspapers, alongside serialized novels typical of the time period, encouraged individual thought and reflection, independent from social class and status in visual and spacial terms—many ideals that the Bloomsbury group promote themselves.

Years later with the onset of World War II, Britain faced a shortage of paper, yet the crossword remained printed in the condensed four-page newspaper. This is because it was believed to be a cathartic distraction to people spending long hours in the air-raid shelters during the war. Toward the end of World War II in 1944, nearly twenty years after its first appearance, crosswords would be used by British spies to communicate, using military code words embedded in the puzzle.

Although starting out as an innocent past time, the crossword puzzle’s transition to British newspapers also brought about a subtle shift in class expectations, introspection, and circulation.

Posted by: Leigh Harmer

Works Cited

Mollica, Anthony. “Crossword Puzzles and Second-Language Teaching.” Italica, 2007. 59-78. Web.

Violini, Juanita Rose. Almanac of the Infamous, the Incredible, and the Ignored. Redwheel, 2009. 98. Web.

Images Cited

Arthur Wynne with Newspaper. N.d. Newsbeast. 16 Dec. 2013. Web.


The World’s First Weekly Crossword Puzzle.
1913. Rob Webstek. 22 Mar. 2013. Web.

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