Want a clue? It begins with C. It's the crosswords and despite turning 100 years old, millions are still hooked on the classic word game.
The original crossword was created back in 1913 by a British man named Arthur Wynne. He was compiling a games section for the New York World magazine a few days before Christmas.
While word puzzles had been found throughout history, Wynne’s puzzle had a different internal patterning system than other word games and made history as the first known crossword.
In a café in Sydney’s inner west, a small group gather to learn the art of cryptic crosswords. While the crowd is small, the enthusiasm is great and many are excited by the prospect of learning the skill of deconstructing a cryptic clue.
David Stickley teaches the class run by Laneway Learning. A professional crossword compiler, he says the best way to learn cryptic crosswords is with others.
"People say you can just look up the answers the next day and work it out, but that’s still hard. The best way to learn is from someone else."
The puzzle didn’t enter the mainstream until two young men with a newly founded publishing business, Simon and Schuster, printed a book of crosswords in 1924.
From that moment, crossword craze swept across the United States. Crosswords were everywhere in popular culture taking over from mah-jong as the puzzle du jour. The rivalry became so intense that mah-jong manufacturers sent crossword publishers this note: "Roses are red, Violets are blue, we’d like to cut your throats for you".
Dictionaries were put on public trains. A theatre put on a crossword inspired performance. One woman divorced her husband because he spent too much time on crosswords. And another woman, in New York, was shot dead for refusing to help her husband with a crossword clue.
David Astle is a wordsmith and crossword creator. His book 'Cluetopia' details the 100 year history of the sometimes frustrating puzzle.
"Crosswords back in the 1920s were viewed as this diabolical distraction from working hours, from fiction, from intelligent conversation," he said.
Despite this, the momentum continued, in part due to the creation of the cryptic crossword in Britain in the late 1920s.
"You have this beautiful inbuilt rivalry that's existed in the crossword culture that's ensured its own momentum and cultural one- up manship as well," Mr Astle says.
"I was gobsmacked to realise that crosswords are in every culture where I went looking. Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, the Russian alphabet, even in Esperanto and sci- fi languages," he said.
"Everywhere I looked there were crosswords and I think that’s another reason for their success and momentum because they are a universal phenomenon.
"I think there is something beautiful about a diversion that offers you a sense of order in a finite frame. And within the finite frame there is infinite amount of possibilities and there’s a really nice polarity between order and disorder."
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