Did you know that the first crossword puzzle was created by Arthur Wayne, a journalist from Liverpool, England, who is widely considered to be the inventor of the game? The crossword puzzle, which Arthur called a word-cross, was published in the New York World on December 21, 1913. The puzzle consisted of a diamond shape grid that contained 31 words and none of the black squares that we see today. Over the next ten years, crossword puzzles were added to every major US newspaper. However, it wasn’t until 1922 that the crossword puzzle finally started to appear in British newspapers, with the first one being published in Pearson’s Magazine. The first complete crossword puzzle book entitled, “The Cross Word Puzzle Book”, was published in 1920 by Richard Simon and Lincoln Schuster, which we would recognize today as the Simon and Schuster publishing house. It sold 400,000 copies in its debut year.

How the Crossword Puzzle Helped WWII

By 1942, the New York Times was publishing a daily crossword puzzle, which was quickly gaining a reputation for its difficulty level. In fact, many people started using the puzzle as a way to gauge their intelligence. By the time WWII started, the military in the UK had gotten wind of the usefulness of crossword puzzles, and The Daily Telegraph realized how popular they were after individuals started writing to tell them how long it took them to complete the puzzles. The record at that time was 12 minutes. In response, The Daily Telegraph held a contest to see who could beat the puzzles in the least amount of time.

They chose 25 contestants. The fastest solver completed the puzzle in 6 minutes and 3.5 seconds but The Daily Telegraph disqualified him for a misspelling, leaving the true winner with a time of 7 minutes and 57.5 seconds. The War Office decided that these individuals would be useful in cryptography and code-breaking and started contacting them about working for their code-breaking teams. In the USA, it is said that the soldiers were given crossword puzzles to help keep their minds sharp for the war.

The DDAY Crossword Puzzle Near-Disaster

In order to end WWII, the allies realized that they needed to stage a large invasion. This invasion would include more than 5,000 ships, 1,200 airplanes and 160,000 soldiers. The force would come from the British Isles and land in Normandy, France. However, it almost didn’t happen due to the crossword puzzles being created at The Strand School for Boys and published in The Daily Telegraph.

As a test run, the allied forces commenced with the Dieppe Raid. It was meant to increase support and morale. This raid occurred on August 19, 1942. More than 6,000 allied troops were involved, and it failed spectacularly. The battle began at five in the morning, and by three in the afternoon, nearly 60 percent of the allied forces were either killed, captured or retreating.

Due to the impossibility of such a scenario, the allied forces were forced to conclude that the Nazis had been tipped off. Suspicion quickly fell on The Daily Telegraph and its crossword puzzle. This is because two days before that invasion, the paper’s crossword puzzle had included a clue, “French Port.” The answer was given the next day as Dieppe, which was the day before the invasion. MI5 investigated and determined that it was just an unfortunate coincidence.

The Allies went on to plan the invasion of Normandy, which was codenamed Operation Overload. The plan was to land at five points along the Normandy coast. The first point was Douve Estuary. The second point encompassed three areas, including Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes, Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer and Vierville-sur-Mer. The third landing site was Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer to Ouistreham. The fourth landing area encompassed Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer and Ouistreham, and the fifth landing point spanned Courseulles, Saint-Aubin and Bernières. These five areas were all given code names, including Utah Beach, Omaha, Sword Beach, Gold Beach and Juno Beach.

In February of 1944, The Daily Telegraph’s crossword answers took a sinister turn. One of the answers in the puzzle was Juno. The next month Gold appeared then Sword. It was chalked up to a weird coincidence until MI5 read the clue “One of the US.” The answer was Omaha. In May 1942, the clues and answers became more concerning. An answer for the May 27 puzzle was Overlord, and on June 1, 1942, the answer was Neptune. MI5 suddenly realized they had to arrest Leonard Sydney Dawe, who was the headmaster of the Strand School for Boys, before he published an answer like DDay. He was obviously tipping off the Nazis.

However, it wasn’t that simple. As it turned out, the boys from the school were hanging out with the Canadian and US military personnel. The students overheard the words and then arranged them for the crossword puzzles. Dawe simply came up with the clues to solve the puzzles. Of course, DDay was a success, and people still love crossword puzzles.

The Appeal of Crossword Puzzles Today

The crossword puzzles of today can be found in a variety of themes. You can find crossword puzzles that test your knowledge of war or military history. There are crossword puzzles for people who love pets, nature, pop culture, general history, sports, literature, food and drinks, geography, science, holidays and even specific games and TV shows. There are also numerous crossword puzzle apps that can be downloaded to your cell phone or computer.

People enjoy crossword puzzles because successfully solving a puzzle creates a feeling of accomplishment. People also love to test their knowledge and challenge their intelligence. For older individuals solving crossword puzzles can help keep their minds sharp, and individuals of all ages can use them to improve their focus and concentration. If you’re a wordie, you may also love them because they can teach you new words and help you expand your vocabulary. In short, there’s no shortage of crossword puzzle-solving opportunities, and you may just find your favorite theme in a crossword puzzle book or app.