This I Have Learned: Getting Cross Over a Crossword Puzzle

Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg

Ah, the satisfaction of doing and then completing a crossword puzzle. For those of you who are hooked on crossword puzzles, you know how it feels to get all of those little squares filled in and then progress to the next crossword puzzle challenge. The exhilaration and such a feeling of accomplishment! But what if your quest to complete a certain crossword puzzle falls short?

Take, for an example, a recent crossword puzzle from the Los Angeles Times, wherein there were 230 clues provided to complete the puzzle. Under normal circumstances, a puzzle this size could be undertaken in a few hours, but there were clue challenges with this one. Indeed, there were many opportunities for me to scratch my head and say out loud, “Huh?” Let’s look at some of the clues, including the answers; see if you agree.

Pequod co-owner—answer peleg

Curriculum suffix—answer olong

Reptilian tail—answer sauer

Hammer head—answer peen

Darn if I could not find the words for the above clues! And, full disclosure, I did have to cheat and locate the answers 10 pages forward in the BrainBusters puzzle book. My lack of intelligence notwithstanding, I did manage to pick up these four new words for my vocabulary!

A word about crossword puzzles. We have Englishman Arthur Wynne to thank for these. Born in 1871, Wynne immigrated to the United States when he was age nineteen and lived in Pittsburgh, where he worked for the Pittsburgh Press newspaper.

Wynne later moved to New Jersey and began working for the New York World. He wrote his first word puzzle in response to the editor of the paper asking Wynne to come up with a new game for the Sunday entertainment section. The puzzle was published on Sunday, Dec. 21, 1913. It was initially named Word-Cross, but, after a few weeks, and due to a typesetting error, the name became Crossword, a moniker that has stuck for 108 years. A wonderful overview of the history of the crossword puzzle can be found by searching a brief history of the Crossword.

Note: You can find the answers to Wynne’s crossword puzzle by going to Arthur Wynne’s Original Crossword at

This I have learned …