May 18, 1924: The convention

May 18, 1924: The convention

On this day 100 years ago, the First National Cross Word Puzzle Convention took place in the Ambassador Hotel in New York City. We've already covered the announcement earlier in the month and some chatter leading up to it, but now the date is upon us.

Admission was free, and tickets doubled as a program of the festivities. We here at Crossword Craze have the privilege of sharing a new high-resolution scan of one of those tickets from the personal collection of Will Shortz.

Shortz has previously described the provenance of this object in The Ephemera Journal:

I own several copies of the first crossword book, but this one is unique. It’s a presentation copy inscribed by Dick Simon and Max Schuster to Aunt Wixie, whose idea it had been to publish the book. It has various pieces of ephemera tucked inside the covers, including a copy of a letter from Dick to his father thanking him for investing in the fledgling company; the book’s answer key, which had to be mailed away for; an unused ticket to the first crossword convention; and assorted newspaper articles.

By all accounts, the convention was a success. The New York Times printed a short recap the next day:

Joseph E. Austrian was elected President of the Cross Word Puzzle Association of America, an organization formed last night by 300 men and women who met in the Italian Room at the Ambassador. Speeches were made in praise of the mind-developing effect of crossword puzzles by Ruth Hale, Mr. Austrian, Dr. Everett Thompson and others.

Over at the Herald Tribune, a longer round-up covered the ins and outs of the competition (which was won by William A. Stearn) including a clue fact-check from humorist Gelett Burgess.

"Fraud," Yells Skeptic

It was while Mr. Stearn was parading down the aisle with his prize under his arm—a (ten-letter word meaning big book)—that Mr. Burgess raised his voice crying "Fraud!"

"Mr. (eight-letter word meaning presiding officer)" he shouted, "there is an error in the puzzle which invalidates the victory. You give a definition 'Chinese coin,' and the answer is 'Yes,' but I raise that point that that is a fraud because the 'Yen' is a Japanese coin."

That same piece ends with some stats: "Forty-three newspapers use crossword puzzles and there are said to be 100,000 addicts in the country."

Over at the Providence Journal, columnist F.H. Young was dealing with the four-letter word of FOMO.

Most of us out here in the rural regions don't realize what we miss by not living in New York. Life there is so crowded with interest. We would have given anything, for instance, to have been present yesterday at the Cross-Word Puzzle Convention ...

And it is further hoped that the non-cross-worders who attended the convention did not fulfill the press prediction by going away after it was all over, murmuring to themselves "a four-letter word (plural) meaning fruits consisting of a kernel or seed inclosed in a hard woody or leathery shell which does not open when ripe." We guessed this one, which is about the simplest thing that confronts any cross-word puzzler. But it would be rude in the extreme to say it, or even think it, in connection with the students of cross-word puzzles, which, we have been informed, are intensely fascinating.

As a final note, I constructed today's puzzle in the Los Angeles Times—my themeless debut! Solve it online, or on paper in the Times or any paper that syndicates its puzzle.