I could not fail to have an update on today of all days – the centenary of the first crossword puzzle. Arthur Wynne produced the first puzzle for a Christmas supplement back in 1913, and the proximity to the festive season was always going to mean a good bundle of celebratory crosswords of one kind or another. I haven’t yet come across one that yokes the two celebrations together, but then there’s quite a pile to work through yet… I did manage to track down and solve Google’s interactive ‘doodle’, which for some reason seems only to be on Google.com in the US rather than any other national sites (8 min 15 sec, though I still don’t know why some of the answers were what they were) and the UK Daily Telegraph has quite a feast of centenary related material, including the first Saturday Toughie (try 5 across…).
The crossword itself is a very simple concept, yet it has evolved and proliferated in a myriad ways, and shows every sign of continuing, even as the media in which it appears evolve themselves. Several years ago I muttered something to an interviewer about the cryptic crossword having something in common with poetry (epigrammatic, not to say gnomic, statements, filling slim volumes in unfrequented corners of bookshops…). Tongue in cheek as it was, it bears restatement, since the idea of making words dance to convey new meanings is common to both (and, come to think of it, to the crafting of good jokes as well). May the wit continue to flourish.
My puzzle for the centenary will appear on this site in due course, but Beelzebub in The Independent on Sunday has something seasonal to offer. It’s always a tricky thing, coming up with something that can be explained in a terse preamble (there isn’t space for more than a sentence, really). Phi in Friday’s Independent also tried for a new seasonal reference, but ended up on obscure shores. Did you know that there was a Christmas Island near Nova Scotia, and another near Tasmania, while the more famous one elsewhere in Australia’s bailiwick has as its main settlement Flying Fish Cove? Neither did the solvers – and they couldn’t even muster a chorus of the Andrews Sisters’ hit Christmas Island. Pshaw! Still, I’ve staved off having to come up with a novel Christmas idea for another year.
I am trying every Christmas to put up an unseen puzzle, and here is this year’s. I’ve just written a blog about a puzzle in the Crossword Club dating from 1987, though not published till this year, and this is almost as old. Enjoy! And have a merry Christmas. (There’ll be a new setter’s blog along to occupy you amongst the turkey leftovers – butterflied lamb in our case, actually (this is NZ, after all)),