Posts Tagged ‘crossword puzzle’

Postwar crossword days at Elle

April 19, 2020

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Today, Elle magazine is renowned as a glossy fashion monthly licensed by its French owners and published globally from New York to Moscow. But it has its origins as a general women’s weekly founded in postwar Paris.

The cover here is from 1947 (dated October 21). It’s unusual for its crossword-based design with the woman and background taken as a single photograph with the masthead title added later. The cross words act as cover lines, describing the attributes of the magazine: gay and practical, but with work spelled out twice as downward words.

Inside was the actual mots croisés for the issue, which is reproduced below. Note the non-symmetrical grid, there being two or three clues for each words, and unusual numbering for the grid. In Britain, the crossword craze dates to the mid-1920s and the symmetrical shape and numbering style were ubiquitous in the 1930s.

The vertical numbers can just be seen on the left edge of the cover design, in Roman numerals. Answers on a postcard please …

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Ensnared in the 1925 crossword craze

December 4, 2019
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Readers found crosswords difficult in 1925, according to Our Home magazine

Arthur Wynne, a Liverpudlian, introduced the modern crossword in 1913 in the New York World, based on the word games he had played as a boy. So it’s fitting that the above  early reference to crosswords in Britain is on a children’s page, in this case from Our Home, a domestic monthly (November 1925). From boys to their uncle and even the Classics teacher, everyone is ensnared by the crossword craze.

By that time, the cheap weekly magazines were driving the craze. Answers was running a regular puzzle, and picture-based variants. Tuppenny weekly rival Tit-Bits was offering £500 in its prize crossword competitions – which would have bought a house at the time.

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People clearly found them difficult, as the Our Home cartoon and poem suggest. This is demonstrated by the fact that the results published in a December 1926 issue of Tit-Bits show that no-one was able to complete the November 13 puzzle – so the £500 prize was divided between seven entrants. It was the fourth puzzle the popular weekly magazine had carried.

This was about a year after the first crossword in a British daily paper, in the Express. The Telegraph also started up in 1925 and there was a rash of arrivals in 1930 with the Listener, the Times and Country Life. Rhythm magazine ran a jazz crossword in the 1930s.

A jazz approach to the crossword puzzle

August 27, 2014

 

Experimental jazz crossword: Jazz word square from 1937 in Rhythm magazine (June)

Experimental jazz crossword puzzle: Jazz word square from 1937 in Rhythm magazine (June)

The crossword puzzle was still pretty new in 1937, when this one appeared in Rhythm magazine’s June issue and, as here, experimentation was rife. The first modern-day crossword was reckoned to have been published on 21 December 1913 in the New York World. It was composed by Arthur Wynne, an immigrant from Liverpool who had played such games as a boy.

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Experimental crossword: jazz word square from June 1937 in Rhythm magazine

The most popular word game at the time in Britain was probably John Bull‘s ‘Bullets’. These prize cryptic competitions predated crosswords – and the magazine claimed to have paid out £620,000 prize money for its first 1000 puzzles. John Bull was selling 1m copies a week from 1914 to 1955.

The Sunday Express was the first British newspaper to publish a crossword, in 1924. The Daily Telegraph followed in 1925: ‘The initial plan was for these new-fangled puzzles to be published for just six weeks in deference to a passing American craze.’ But the idea stuck and in March 1928 the paper started publishing a prize crossword on a Saturday and in 1937 a daily quick crossword. In 1941, W.A.J. Gavin, owner of Vanity Fair, issued a challenge on the letters page to do the crossword in 12 minutes. (Daily Telegraph: 80 Years of Cryptic Crosswords by Val Gilbert.) The paper also published an article last year celebrating 100 years since the first US crossword by Arthur Wynne.

So there was lots of experimentation going on, and the idea of popular cryptic word puzzles in Britain, such as ‘Bullets’ in John Bull, was added to the simple word-definition clue concept to develop the cryptic crossword, an idea that has yet to take off in the US, where jumbo crosswords are much more popular. The Economist publishes a Christmas crossword for its US readers, complete with instructions.

Other famous crosswords include The Listener‘s, which appeared in the BBC’s weekly radio review in 1930. Both The Times and Country Life took up the idea in the same year. The Listener‘s crossword was adopted by The Times when the magazine closed in 1991. A tradition also developed of cryptic names for the compilers, so Alec Robins was ‘Zander’ in the Listener (1949-92) and ‘Custos’ for the Guardian, but used his real name in Intercity magazine.

In the 1950s, such was the level of competition for readers between and among newspapers and magazines that Tit-Bits was devoting four pages at the back of each issue to football pools, betting advice – and the solutions to the prize crosswords in Sunday newspapers and weekly rivals such as John Bull and Reveille.