What’s a 9-Letter Word for a 100-Year-Old Puzzle?

All the Latin I know I learned from crossword puzzles. And the crossword puzzle will be 100 years old this coming Saturday! The first such puzzle was called a "word-cross," it is published in the New York World on December 21, 1913. By the 1920s, solving crossword puzzles was so popular that publishers couldn't print them fast enough. Suddenly, the average person's vocabulary went up. And psychologists argued about whether the fad was beneficial or damaging.

A Columbia University psychologist, for example, said that crossword puzzles satisfied 45 fundamental desires of the human species; Chicago’s health commissioner endorsed crosswords as a means of calming the nerves. But there was debate: The chairman of Maryland’s Board of Mental Hygiene worried that the puzzles “might easily unbalance a nervous mind” and even lead to psychosis. The New York Times derided crosswords as “a primitive sort of mental exercise,” and the Times of London ran an editorial about the fad headlined, “An Enslaved America.”

It might be telling that while flagpole sitting and the Charleston flourished in the '20s and then died away, people still do crossword puzzles every day. Read the history of the puzzle, and why it's so appealing, at Smithsonian's Past Imperfect blog. -via Digg

(Image credit: Flickr user Brian Aydemir)

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