The Boston Globe builds a crossword community

The Boston Globe builds a crossword community

When the crossword craze kicked off a hundred years ago, there initially weren't that many newspapers regularly publishing crosswords besides the New York rival outlets of The World (where the puzzle format was invented) and The Herald Tribune. One other paper that got in early on the crossword boom was The Boston Globe. Let's take a look at what they published a century ago, on April 12, 1924.

At the time, The Globe published a crossword three times a week, but Saturday was when they devoted the most attention to the puzzle and its fans.

In addition to the Saturday puzzle, The Globe ran a column called "Cross Comment – And Otherwise," full of commentary from solvers, with plenty of in-jokes for community-building. Notably, the editors take to heart the feedback from solvers about the difficulty level and writing style of the clues (or "definitions" as they were known). One correspondent sends along a verse cursing out a constructor, "That Awful Chet Bent."

But now I am hoary, helpless and hot,
Dreary my life and hopeless my lot.
My Thesaurus is torn, my Dictionary rent,
And all on account of that awful Chet Bent.

Elsewhere on the page, we find two advertisements targeting this burgeoning crossword community. One is from G. & C. Merriam Co. of Springfield, Mass., promoting Webster's New International Dictionary, "the supreme authority" with over 407,000 words. Specifically, they market their unabridged dictionary to those who are trying to win money in crossword contests. And there's also an ad for The Cross Word Puzzle Book, which was published just two days earlier.

The folks at G. & C. Merriam must have been delighted that there was a new market for "word puzzlers" needing to look up lexical obscurities. They also placed a similar ad in the back of The Cross Word Puzzle Book. Who could resist their tagline, "Why not be in the Winning Class?"

A final note: Here in 2024, new crossword outlets are still springing up. Slate recently launched an (almost) daily crossword, edited by Quiara Vasquez. Each week there will be one 15x15 puzzle and five "midis" (11x11). I'm delighted to be joining the roster of constructors, and my first midi just published today! Check it out here.