(CBS News) In a word, it's a phenomenon one hundred years old and counting. Faith Salie spells it out for us:
If you know a
three-letter word for a "sea eagle" is an ERN, chances are you like
to spend your time solving crossword puzzles.
Daniel Feyer, the
reigning American Crossword Puzzle Tournament
champion and one of the fastest solvers in the country, told Salie he solves on
average 10 crossword puzzles a day: aybe more, depending on how busy
I am with the rest of my life."
says those daily 10 puzzles take him all of ten minutes
trivia and unusual vocabulary are par for the course for crossword puzzle enthusiasts,
or cruciverbalists, like Feyer.
know almost every fact about Yoko Ono, because Ono is a super famous person as
well as a very useful set of letters," he said.
"You probably also
know a lot about Yoda," said Salie. "Yes!" he replied.
For a hundred years
now, we've had a love affair with the crossword . . . love, as in "Zero in tennis." Or "All you need is ____, according to the
"It keeps your
mind sharp," said Corey Newman, "and it's a good way for people to
get to know each other, apparently -- and eventually, it leads to marriage and family!"
So it went for Newman when, with the help of the Washington Post., he proposed to his now-wife Marlowe in a Sunday crossword puzzle.
"My heart was racing, I was real nervous," he said of the proposal-disguised-as-a-newspaper-crossword.
"She sat down next to me, we started doing the puzzle. And she actually
completed her name. You know, she figured out 'Marlowe Epstein' and I was so sure at that point she would
know something was up.
enough, she didn't. She just figured it was the biggest coincidence
It wasn't until 51
Across. The clue: "Words with a certain ring to them." [Answer?
Willyoumarryme.] Then Newman got down on one knee.
The very first
crossword puzzle ran in The New York World on December 21, 1913, a hundred
years ago this week. It was the creation of Arthur Wynne.
On the Sunday
before Christmas in 1913, he invented a puzzle he called a word cross. The "Word Cross" was in a shape of
a hollow diamond. The first answer across the diagram was filled in for you:
It was fun!
was an immediate success with readers," said Will Shortz,
crosswords editor for The New York Times, and perhaps the most celebrated
puzzle editor in the world. "So it became a
weekly feature in the World. It
continued into the early 1920s, and by that time there were a few other
newspapers in the country running crosswords, but very few. Hardly anyone knew
changed when two young Columbia journalism graduates, Dick Simon and Max Schuster,
decided to enter the world of publishing.
of them had an aunt who was a big fan of the crosswords in the World, and she
suggested they do a book of crosswords," said Shortz. "They
went to the puzzle editors at the World, and the trio of editors there put
together the world's first crossword book."
also the first book of what would become publishing giant Simon and
Schuster (which is now owned by CBS). It became a bestseller, launching a
national craze. The B&O Railroad
even installed unabridged dictionaries on its trains for the convenience
were crossword dresses, crossword contests. There was a show on Broadway called
"Puzzles of 1925," in which the climactic scene was set in a
crossword puzzle sanitorium.
despite their popularity, Arthur Wynne -- the man who started it all -- never
cashed in on his invention.
did the first crosswords, Wynn went to his boss and said, 'This seems to
taking off. Should I have it copyrighted?'" recalled his daughter,
Catherine Wynne Cutler, of Clearwater, Fla. "[His boss] said, 'No, it's a
Arthur, don't waste your money.' And so Daddy never made a dime."
were part of Catherine's childhood: "When I was little, he and Mother
went to the store and left me alone in the house reading and he said, 'Your
instructions are on the kitchen table.' And I went and looked and there was a
picture of a big bee, and it was on top of a bed. And the number 9 was next to
I was supposed to figure out that this meant 'Be in bed by nine,'" she
laughed. "And I did!"
her dad was never angry about not capitalizing on
the popularity of the crossword.
"He was rueful but he had the grace to laugh," she told Salie. "He
enjoyed the fact that he had done it and that people did call him the
of the modern crossword."
Is the crossword as modern as ever?
"Nowadays, people famously have shorter
attention spans," said Shortz. "And think about a crossword: A daily puzzle has around
76 clues and answers, each one on a different topic. You're solving a
puzzle. Your mind's jumping from one thing to the next. I think
it's perfect for the modern age."