The crossword is about to about-face 100. Dave Kenny looks aback at the history of the atramentous and white grid.
PICTURE this: a man is sitting at a bar, half-drained pint at his elbow, acclaim borer a pen adjoin his brow. Spread afore him is a newspaper. He is staring at it with the aforementioned acuteness that CIA psychics beam at goats, aggravating to accomplish them topple over.
It’s the afternoon and the pub is so quiet you can apprehend the Murphys-branded alarm ticking. The man is the actual advance of tranquil, bookish masculinity. He is accomplishing the crossword.
’Doing the crossword’ is one of the best loaded phrases in the leisure time lexicon. It not alone suggests that the ‘crosser’ is adequate a amusement that is attentive and requires an about zen-like abridgement of concrete exertion, it additionally suggests that he/she is a brainiac.
There is an accepted cipher that states that you should never arrest a man accomplishing his crossword. To do so is like aggravating to bolt the eye of a tightrope walker. It’s alarming and can sometimes aftereffect in abrasion (generally, a accurately in the mouth).
Never abstain the admonishing signs. If anyone has anytime said to you, “I’m aloof activity to sit over actuality and accomplishment the crossword. It’s active me mad today” — what they were absolutely adage was, “You’re an arsehole and I don’t appetite to allocution to you.”
Crosswords are invaluable on accessible transport. They advice you abstain authoritative eye acquaintance with the mentaller sitting in advanced of you. (Is addition accomplishing a crossword in advanced of you on the bus appropriate now? You acutely attending like a mentaller.)
The crossword’s abode as a much-loved, admired and advantageous amusement was not calmly won. It may abruptness you to apprentice that this etymological academy was pilloried anon afterwards it appeared a aeon ago in the New York World, on Dec 21, 1913.
Across the water, Britain’s moral guardians alleged it a new American chic that would break society’s fabric. Housewives were bare their affairs and appointment abundance was down: all because of a filigree of atramentous and white squares with numbered clues.
One of Britain’s oldest papers, the Tamworth Herald (founded in 1868) alleged crosswords “a annoyance authoritative adverse appropriate on the alive hours of every rank of society”. Bodies were accomplishing them in abbey “with hymnals for camouflage”. Libraries began concealment in the white beef to stop bodies from captivation on to their newspapers for too long.
Imagine accomplishing that today with your partner’s sudoku grid. Cantankerous words? Added like cantankerous swords.
The New York Times snootily assured that “the catechism of whether the puzzles are benign or adverse is in no burning charge of an answer. The chic clearly is dying out fast and in a few months it will be forgotten”.
The crossword came into actuality back the editor of the New York World asked announcer Arthur Wynne to ad-lib a new bold for the paper’s Sunday ball section. Wynne was a Liverpudlian immigrant, who additionally played violin in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. His aboriginal addle was alleged ‘word-cross’ and was diamond-shaped. This afterwards became ‘cross-word’, and afterwards afresh ‘crossword’ afterwards a typo in which the abutment was dropped. ‘Crossword’ was built-in out of a mispelt chat — a basal sin amid cruciverbalists.
Wynne’s bold was based on one alleged ‘magic squares’ which was played in Pompeii afore the abominable _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ [eight letters, alpha with ‘E’ and catastrophe in a loud bang].
He added added innovations like bare atramentous squares, and accomplishing horizontal/vertical grids. His bold was so accepted that, like applesauce and hamburgers, it eventually beyond the Atlantic. The aboriginal addle was arise in Britain and Ireland in Pearson’s Magazine in February 1922.
The Sunday Express was the aboriginal bi-weekly on these islands to broadcast a crossword on Nov 2, 1924.
Compilers such as Torquemada and Araucaria developed band followings. Ximenes (aka Derrick Somerset Macnutt) who aggregate puzzles for the Observer from 1939 to 1971 had celebrity admirers including Stephen Sondheim, PG Wodehouse and Leonard Bernstein. Ximeneans captivated dinners and wore appropriate ties to appearance their allegiance.
The best acclaimed US compiler is William Shortz of the New York Times. In 1992, he visited Bill Clinton — who was on the attack aisle — in a auberge allowance with a appropriate crossword. Clinton completed it, alike entering solutions while on an important buzz call.
Shortz additionally provided the addle clues for the Riddler in Batman Forever. Not alone that, he additionally devised his own class at university and is the alone actuality to authority a amount in enigmatology. [Remember that word. It’s a clue. Now apprehend on…]
Crosswords accept alike stoked political controversy. New York Times readers cried “bias” on acclamation day 1996, back the acknowledgment to the clue ‘Lead Story in Tomorrow’s Newspaper’ was ‘Clinton Elected’. It angry out, however, that the final, ambiguous, band-aid could additionally be apprehend as ‘Bob Dole Elected’.
So what absolutely is a crossword? It’s a bold of words area the amateur is accustomed a hint, the cardinal of belletrist and again fills in a filigree of boxes. But you knew that, didn’t you?
Clues arise in ______ [Clue: ‘uncomplicated as Simon’ (6)], Or _______ [’sounds like ‘stupid actuality who lives in a mausoleum’ (7)]. (Answers: Simple and crypt-thick.)
Cryptic clues generally use anagrams. Actuality are a few of the added acclaimed one: Britney Spears from Presbyterians, constructed chrism from Manchester City, That Great Charmer from Margaret Thatcher. How about this one: ‘Chaste Lord Archer vegetating’. Go on, accord it a go. (It’s the abode area Jeffrey Archer was holed up afterwards the Monica Coughlan sex scandal. ‘The Old Vicarage, Granchester’.)
Doing the cryptic crossword is a bit like arise a abstruse cipher set by an unhinged lexicographer. During the Second World War, the cypher wizards at Bletchley Park ran a challenge in the Daily Telegraph. Contestants who apparent the paper’s crossword in beneath 12 account were abeyant recruits to the war effort. The J______ [Tom’s rodent playmates (7)] were defeated with a few cantankerous words. (Answer: Jerries.)
Even in accord time, crosswords accept been acclimated to broadcast abstruse messages. The aftermost copy of the hacking-disgraced News of the World featured clues such as ‘Woman stares berserk at calamity’ — anticipation to be a advertence to Rebekah Brooks.
Elderly bodies are encouraged to do crosswords to advance brainy agility. Recent analysis suggests that accepting an acme is bigger for cerebral functions than crosswords. Who would accept anticipation finishing a difficult addle could be declared as a ‘thrilling climax’?
Many bodies are put off accomplishing the crosswords because they anticipate they’re too difficult. They’re not as adamantine as you may think. It’s all about accepting a reasonable cant and accepting into the mindset of the compiler.
If you accept why the band-aid to ‘wicked antecedent of light’ is ‘candle’, again you’re accessible to accouterment the cryptic. If not, again aloof do the simplex.
If both arise too hard, again stick to account the horoscopes: you’ll never be an e___ma_ol__ist. [14 letters]
LOST FOR WORDS
* The best abounding crossword compiler is Roger Squires of Shropshire. On May 14, 2007, he arise his 66,666th crossword, agnate to 2 actor clues.
* The longest chat anytime acclimated in a arise crossword is the 58-letter Welsh boondocks Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (as an anagram).
* The bigger crossword anytime aggregate had 132,020 squares with 12,842 clues beyond and 13,128 clues bottomward and appeared in Russiky Crossword.
* Author Colin Dexter called Inspector Morse and DS Lewis afterwards two Ximenean crossword prize-winners: the above administrator of Lloyds Bank, Sir Jeremy Morse and Mrs DW Lewis.
* One of Britain’s best admired compilers, Araucaria, told admirers he was dying of blight in Jan 2013 … in a clue. He wrote he had ‘18 bottomward of the 19, which is actuality advised with 13 15’. [Cancer of the oesophegus/palliative care.]
* It’s acceptable in the US and actuality to accept 180 amount grids which accept rotational agreement and attending the aforementioned back angry upside down.
* In the lead-up to the D-Day landings, a crossword compiler — Leonard Dawes — was questioned afterwards ‘Utah’, ‘Juno’ and ‘Overlord’ (all cipher words) appeared in his grids. Was he a spy? Years afterwards it emerged that a buck who helped him ample in grids had overheard US soldiers application the words and admired the complete of them.
* In Japan the bend squares of a addle charge be white.
* The Italian accent is bigger for crossword architecture as it has added vowels and added regularity of spelling patterns than English.
* In 1926 a Budapest aide larboard a bare crossword with his suicide agenda adage the band-aid would accord the acumen for his death. The band-aid was never found.