How was the crossword puzzle invented?
Can doing crosswords really help you stay happier and healthy for longer?
Sir John Gielgud believed so. The star of Arthur, Chariots of Fire, The Power of One and The Portrait of a Lady solved a crossword every day until he died, aged 97, with a completed crossword by his bedside.
He used to say, “Completing the crossword is the only exercise I take.” And the Shakespearean actor spent every spare moment on set doing his beloved crosswords.
The Queen, who has just celebrated her 90th birthday, also enjoys a good crossword. Actress Betty White, 94, is also passionate about her crosswords. “I do mental exercises. I don't have any trouble memorising lines because of the crossword puzzles I do every day to keep my mind a little limber.”
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Ever wondered how the crossword was created?
Newspaper man Arthur Wynne was originally from the UK and moved to New York in 1905. While he was working at the newspaper The New York World as editor of the ‘fun’ section in 1913, he created the ‘word-cross puzzle’. This diamond shaped word game was derived from the ancient game of acrostics and wordsquares, which was a Victorian past-time. There were 31 simple clues and it was published on Sunday December 21, 1913.
The recreation of the first crossword puzzle, created by Arthur Wynne, published in the New York World on December 21, 1913
Due to its popularity and newly named the ‘crossword’ Wynne’s creation was published in the newspaper for ten years before a pair of Harvard graduates came up with the idea to publish a book of crosswords (as their Auntie Wixie was a fan). A publishing phenomena was born!
So, how does doing crosswords help you? Of course, we all know, they are a great (healthy) escape from the demands of everyday life. They also make you think and provide much needed mental exercises, which may keep the brain healthier, for longer.
Did you know crosswords were created 103 years ago?
Crosswords also improve your vocabulary - new words, new meanings, and new understandings of words. They teach organisational skills. After all, it’s often necessary to work back and forth between the Across and Down clues to solve the puzzle. Your spelling skills also get a workout and you pick up all sorts of general knowledge.
M. Lincoln Schuster (R) and Ricahrd L. Simon (L) created the first book of crossword puzzle - an instant success! (Image via simonandschuster.biz)
So you can feel good about the time you spend wrestling with clues – you’re improving your memory and sharpening your brain. Love crosswords? The first 500 readers who apply with be sent a free copy of Christine’s BIG Crossword Magazine.
Mindfulness and puzzles
One of the buzz words in today’s world of mental health is mindfulness. Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist meditation principles. It is especially helpful for people who worry about the past, or the future.
When solving a crossword, you may find that your mind is totally focused on the clues and answers, to the extent that you are not particularly aware of anything else. You might say it’s a form of meditation, except that in meditation the aim is to have no thoughts at all, which is not an easy stage to achieve.
When solving crosswords you are keeping your mind engaged, which means you are not thinking of the past or the future, so you are giving that part of your brain a rest. This is fine as long as you are not crosswording while driving or minding a toddler!
The world’s biggest crossword ever created had 3,149 clues across and 3,185 clues down
Puzzles can be wonderful ‘companions’
“Our Lovatts puzzlers often write in to tell us that our crosswords and puzzles are invaluable companions and our puzzle magazines are well-travelled too. Many of our correspondents also say that their memory and word skills have improved since taking up puzzle-solving - especially if they don’t settle for easy puzzles but tackle the more challenging ones,” says passionate puzzler, Christine Lovatt.
Solving crosswords keeps your mind engaged
“Crosswords and other word puzzles use the right side of the brain whereas Sudoku or other logic puzzles use the left side. So if you can do both, you are giving your brain a total workout,” she adds.
Want to delve into a daily dose of cruciverbalism, decipher a logic puzzle or test your trivia knowledge? WYZA® and Lovatts are offering a free puzzle magazine for the first lucky 500 readers who apply. Click here to get your FREE copy of Christine’s BIG Crossword Magazine!
What are your favourite puzzles or word games? Let us know by commenting below.