You all know crossword puzzles, and whether you like them or not, I bet you have done at least a few during your lifetime. Do you know how and when these puzzles were born? In today’s Bite, we will learn about the Birth of a Puzzle, and not any puzzle; it’s the birth of the crossword puzzle.

Birth of a Puzzle

Crossword puzzles are so common that almost everyone knows how they work. Yet crosswords as we know them first appeared less than a hundred years ago. Before then, the only known word puzzles were simple British children’s games. In these, letters could be arranged into connecting words. A clever child could read words both across and down.

In 1913, newspaper editor Arthur Wynne wanted a unique activity for the “Fun” page of his Sunday paper. He retrieved the old idea of the children’s word puzzle. Wynne’s innovation was to expand it into the larger written format. He drew interlocking boxes in a diamond shape. He gave clued to help solvers fill the boxes with letters to form linking words. Wynne’s puzzle started a trend that others would perfect.

In 1924, Margaret Farrar published the first book of crossword puzzles. It became an instant best-seller. People did crossword puzzles to relax, to improve their vocabulary, and to keep their minds nimble.

Crossword puzzles quickly became a fad, and nearly every American newspaper featured them. In the days before television, people gathering to solve puzzles became a jovial social event.

The fad grew into a familiar feature of daily life. Soon, serious puzzle solvers demanded more challenges. Puzzle makers began to develop larger diagrams with a minimum of blank spaces. They wrote hard clues based on obscure facts, current events, quotations, puns, and riddles. In 1942, the New York Times added a Sunday puzzle, edited by Mrs. Farrar. This happened at an opportune time — during World War II — when war-weary readers were glad for a break from bad news. Farrar’s puzzles were wildly popular. Today, you will find crossword puzzles everywhere — in newspapers, magazines, books, at online interactive websites, and even on place mats.

I hope you learned something new from today’s story, but that’s not all. We will take a closer look at six keywords from the text: retrieve, innovation, format, nimble, jovial, and minimum.

Ready to figure out what these words mean? First, try to guess the meanings on your own with the help of the context above, and only when you want to check your answers, take a look at the answer key below.

Let’s Build our Vocabulary

Choose the best answer:

  1. The meaning of retrieved is
    • copied
    • researched
    • brought back
    • invented
  2. The meaning of innovation is
    • change
    • repetition
    • outline
    • separation
  3. Format most nearly means
    • contract
    • novel
    • design
    • box
  4. Nimble most nearly means
    • stiff
    • blocked
    • jolly
    • quick
  5. Jovial is best defined as
    • gloomy
    • cheerful
    • crabby
    • intellectual
  6. Minimum is best defined as
    • great number
    • small number
    • equal number
    • surplus

I hope you got all the answers right, but above all, I hope you learned something new today. Don’t forget to tune in every day for a new English Plus Bite.

  1. brought back
  2. change
  3. design
  4. quick
  5. cheerful
  6. small number

I hope you got all the answers right, but above all, I hope you learned something new today. Don’t forget to tune in every day for a new English Plus Bite.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

<a href="" target="_self">Danny Ballan</a>

Danny Ballan


Danny is a podcaster, teacher, and writer. He worked in educational technology for over a decade. He creates daily podcasts, online courses, educational videos, educational games, and he also writes poetry, novels and music.

You may also Like

Meaningful Measurement | Word Power

Meaningful Measurement | Word Power

Learn about how the metric system came to existence and how it replaced the archaic arbitrary imperial system as a meaningful measurement in this new Word Power episode from English Plus. In this episode, we will also discuss in detail ten keywords and learn what they mean in context and beyond.

read more
William Tell, Man or Myth | Word Power

William Tell, Man or Myth | Word Power

Learn about the Swiss hero, William Tell in today’s Word Power episode from English Plus Podcast and lean ten keywords in the context of the story. The word are intrepid, conventional, incensed, impetus, obeisance, impertinent, reputedly, guise, egalitarian, and partisan.

read more

Recent Posts

Look Before You Leap

Look Before You Leap

Impulsive decisions making life chaotic? Discover the hidden wisdom in “look before you leap”, where it applies, and the fascinating history of this timeless proverb.

read more
Master the Details: Preposition Usage Quiz

Master the Details: Preposition Usage Quiz

Sharpen your grammar skills with our Preposition Usage Quiz. Dive into the intricacies of English prepositions and learn to use them correctly in sentences. Ideal for language learners seeking to enhance their writing and speaking abilities.

read more


Follow Us

Pin It on Pinterest