Arthur Wynne is usually credited with inventing the crossword. His first puzzle, called a word-cross, was published in December 1913 in the New York World. But there may have been other predecessors to the crossword: in England in the 19th century and an Italian version called per passare il tempo, which means “to pass the time.”
Word crosses eventually became known as crosswords, and their creators became known as cruciverbalists. (They are also called constructors, setters, and compilers.) The word cruciverbalist comes from the Latin word crux, which means “cross,” and the word verbum, which means “word.” Crosswordese seems like a term that could refer to crossword terminology. But in fact, it is used to describe words that frequently appear in crossword puzzles, but are rarely used in daily life. Mead, which means “honey wine,” and etui, which means “a woman’s ornamental case,” are two examples of crosswordese. Oslo, the capital of Norway, is another.
Speaking of crossword terminology, the horizontal and vertical lines of white cells are called entries or answers. Lights is another word used to refer to the white cells.
Missed our interview with NPR Puzzlemaster Will Shortz? Here’s the first installment.