Object Matters A searching history of the crossword.

Object Matters A searching history of the crossword.

  • Words Stevie Mackenzie-Smith
  • Photograph Cecilie Jegsen

As pastimes go, crossword puzzles enjoy a pretty virtuous reputation. Why scroll grids on Instagram when you can tackle a real one with a freshly sharpened pencil? 

Like so many new forms of entertainment, however, when the crossword debuted it was regarded with suspicion. First published in 1913, the “Word-Cross Puzzle” was the invention of Arthur Wynne, a British expat editor at Joseph Pulitzer’s broadsheet New York World. His was more literal than cryptic. “What this puzzle is,” one of Wynne’s first clues read: “HARD.”  

Today, The New York Times publishes a hallowed crossword puzzle, which starts easy-ish on Monday and culminates in a brain-tangling crescendo on Sunday.

Ironically, the newspaper of record was initially sneering, calling the crossword “a primitive...

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