A teenager contributes to the first crossword book

A teenager contributes to the first crossword book

When The Cross Word Puzzle Book was published on Apr. 10, 1924, the editors mostly relied on submissions from readers of The New York World – whatever was sitting unpublished in the drawer of Margaret Petherbridge (soon to be Farrar). One of those submissions appeared as Puzzle No. 3 in the book: "A Simplicity" by Isidore Edelstein. Unmentioned in the puzzle's introductory text is the fact that Edelstein was 15 years old at the time.

As with the other puzzles in the book, you can view page images on Internet Archive and the Library of Congress. The scanned copy of the book used on both sites has some answers already filled in, so you can see the progress of some unknown solver in 1924.

When I posted yesterday commemorating the 100th anniversary of The Cross Word Puzzle Book's publication, I shared a link in the "Crossword Puzzle Tournaments" Facebook group. Much to my surprise, comments were left by two of Isidore's children, Eugene Edelstein and Silvia Edelstein Hines, who proudly noted that their father had a contribution in the book. They also shared more about their family's distinguished crossword lineage.

Isidore Edelstein was born on May 1, 1908, so when The Cross Word Puzzle Book was published, he was just shy of his 16th birthday. The young phenom would continue to submit puzzles to The World that showed up in books published by Simon & Schuster. The 2nd and 3rd series, both published later in 1924 to capitalize on the craze, contain crosswords by Edelstein, and in the former, he is referred to as "an old-timer at the game"! I'm guessing that was a little in-joke among the editors.

Edelstein would become a competitive crossword solver as well, and in 1935 he had the honor of winning the New York Herald Tribune’s “World’s Cross Word Puzzle Championship” (first won by Ruth von Phul in 1924). The Herald Tribune had a big write-up of how Edelstein, a "twenty-seven-year-old radio mechanic from Brooklyn," beat out more than 1,000 competitors. (Eugene notes that the article could have used some fact-checking: his father was actually from the Bronx, and while he worked at a radio factory, he wasn't a mechanic.)

New York Herald Tribune, Feb. 24, 1935

Silvia still has the beautiful silver cup her father won, and Eugene shared this photo of the treasure.

Isidore Edelstein passed away in 1999, but his crosswording legacy lives on in his children and grandchildren. Eugene, now 84, has continued to compete at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, and this past weekend he placed fourth in the Seniors Division! Eugene's son Larry Edelstein and daughter Betsy O'Phelan also participated in the latest tournament. And while Silvia doesn't compete, her daughter Rachel Hines does: she and her husband Daniel Mah took part in the ACPT's first-ever Pairs Division.

For more on the Edelstein family's history with crosswords, see "Our Crossword Puzzle Story" written by Eugene, and "Back to the Family Puzzle" by Silvia (published in Jan. 2017 in Still Crazy, "a literary magazine written by and about people over age 50 but designed to appeal to thoughtful people of all ages"). Thanks to Eugene and Silvia for sharing their fascinating connection to the 1924 crossword craze!