Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Google recently helped celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first "word cross" puzzle (the name soon changed), which appeared in the New York World on Dec. 21, 1913. Credited to cruciverbalist Arthur Wynne they soon spread to other papers and by the 1920s, the decade of fads and fashions, crossword puzzles were up there with flagpole sitting, goldfish swallowing, raccoon coats, monkey gland implants, Charleston contests and ukuleles as the very embodiment of mad, reckless youth on its never-ending quest for novelty. When crossword puzzles were at the height of popularity, they spawned a cadre of haters — mostly self-styled intellectuals, who found them idiotic, exasperating, even alarming. The sight of a dozen commuters doing crossword puzzles on the morning train was as irritating to some cranky people, then, as the sight of a dozen teens absorbed in their iPhones might seem today. These days, crossword puzzles are the highly respectable pastime of brainy people. The New York Times runs crosswords that increase in difficulty throughout the week; its crosswords editor, Will Shortz, is a minor celebrity. Champions vie to out-cross each other in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Merl Reagle, who creates crosswords for the Washington Post, believes that while puzzles have changed over the years, their basic appeal remains the same. 'My theory is that it's because of their interlocking nature. Unlike a lot of other kinds of puzzles, every answer you get helps you get the next one.' Bernice Gordon, a 99-year-old crossword constructor who designs puzzles for The New York Times and other publications, says she owes her longevity in part to crosswords. 'I couldn't live without them,' says Gordon. 'It's my lifeblood. I don't sleep at night because I think, 'What rhymes with "ritz" and "sits" and "pits"?' I do my best work from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.'"
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