In 1913 the first crossword was published in an American newspaper. A hundred years later, doing a crossword keeps hordes of people busy every day – a pastime that studies show can also help reduce the risk of dementia.
A crossword is a word puzzle set out in a grid system. The crossword is solved by filling the grid with letters to form words horizontally and vertically using the clues provided. The difficult bit is unravelling the more or less complex cryptic clues, and the fact that the words cross over each other and share letters.
Chaos in the libraries
The crossword as a pastime for adults was launched by Arthur Wynne, a journalist from Liverpool who emigrated to the USA. Wynne’s crossword was published in the newspaper New York World on Sunday 21 December 1913. Several newspapers picked up on the craze and in 1921 New York Public Library reported that crossworders were swarming around the reference books, causing problems for students and others who needed to access the books. It was also around this time that the crossword came to Europe. Back in the 19th century, England already had simple crosswords for children, and it is believed that Wynne had these in the back of his mind when he constructed his word puzzle. The children’s crosswords were variants of word squares, squares where the same short words of 3–4 letters can be read both horizontally and vertically.
Good for the brain
Solving crosswords is fun, but a number of researchers suggest that this type of mental activity also significantly reduces the risk of dementia in older people. According to a US study at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, intellectual activities can slow the process that leads to dementia or even create more brain cells that act as reserves when other brain cells start to die.
And the crossword itself remains in fine health in 2013, according to Kim Koski, CEO of Finnish printing firm Painoyhtymä.
“We print quite a few crosswords, mostly for export to countries such as the UK and Austria, as well as some for the domestic market, and our volumes have risen by around 20 per cent in recent years.”
Kim’s top tip for printing paper is Holmen BOOK 1.8 CS. Other crossword-friendly papers in the Holmen range are Holmen PLUS, Holmen XLNT and Holmen TRND, with their great image and colour reproduction, lovely feel and, not least, perfect writing surface.