Saturday, 21 December 2013


One hundred years ago today a seemingly innocent little diversion appeared in the pages of  the New York World. Appearing on the paper's 'Fun' pages, it was headed 'FUN'S Word-Cross Puzzle'...

It didn't take long, however, for it to be re-born as the CROSSWORD and the recreation of fitting letters into a maze of vertical and horizontal boxes rapidly became a national and international craze.

Today the crossword is as popular as ever: from simple children's puzzles with picture clues to the cryptically constructed brainteasers in The Times and other top newspapers.

Back in 1997 (under the anagrammatic name 'Basil Birney'), I compiled Many a Cross Word, a lighthearted history of the Crossword puzzle for BBC Radio 4, presented by the late John Wells (or 'Len H Jowles').

It is, I think, still quite informative and, possibly, even mildly amusing!





Aidan Heritage said...

This reminded me of the short but memorable series Cross Talk that Colin Dexter did - I thought relatively recently till I researched it and found it to be in 2002, and only 5 episodes.

Rob Cox said...

Thanks for that Brian. I believe the cryptic-style crossword is peculiar to the English language and almost exclusively to the UK. My father introduced me to the Guardian cryptic and I have been hooked ever since.

Probably the most-loved cryptic crossword compiler (and certainly my favourite) was Araucaria (Rev John Graham MBE) who sadly died of cancer a few weeks ago at the age of 92. He was compiling right up until his death and even announced his disease through the solutions in one of his crosswords. The man had style and I miss him greatly.

One of my favourite clues of his was - Spokeswoman in air crash (5). It took me ages to crack this one!