‘The latest craze ...
the History of cryptic crosswords’

The crossword is a relatively modern invention – its history is less than one hundred years old. Developed by Arthur Wynne, Word Cross, a diamond-shaped ‘quick’ crossword, first appeared in the New York
Sunday World in 1913.

It was nearly ten years later that crosswords became a new craze in England. They were predicted to be a passing phase and medical opinion held that they would lead to eye trouble and brain fatigue!

Within two years, the first of many crossword books was published.

By the late 1920s the cryptic crossword had evolved, and the rest as they say, is history. Cryptic crosswords have become an institution in the UK and around the world and appear daily in newspapers. The Times crossword in Britain has reached such stature that it is considered by many to be the Everest of cryptics.


The Times National Crossword Championship
Since 1970 The Times, in conjunction with various sponsors, has staged annual cryptic crossword championships which have drawn tens of thousands of entries. The finals are attended by hundreds of spectators.

Throughout the championship's history, winners have included a professional singer, a doctor, a school headmaster, a lecturer in Russian and Slavonic Studies, a scientist, a finance director and a computer programmer. The youngest winner to date, was 29 when he won in 1992.

It's a tough contest yet the 2008 champion, a financial controller at the London Stock Exchange, averaged six minutes for each of the three puzzles! You can read more about his extraordinary achievement here.


Never give up ...
At the other end of the solvers' spectrum is the woman in Fiji who wrote excitedly to The Times in 1966 to say she'd finally finished a cryptic crossword she had begun in 1932!


Available at a place near you ...
Cryptic crosswords are popular in many nations including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa. In the USA they are often known as British crosswords or UK crosswords.

Millions of people throughout the world are hooked on cryptics. In Australia alone more than a million people tackle them regularly and many excellent puzzles are compiled locally.


The Grid
Today, throughout the world, the cryptic crossword grid is generally standardised at 15 squares across and 15 squares down.

Learn how to do cryptic crosswords : Free step-by-step instructions from author and cryptic crossword enthusiast Jenni Chandler


Return to Crosswordacademy HOME