The New York Times Crossword and WWII

The WWII home front and this generation have something in common, lock-downs.  This post seemed appropriate for right about now.

There are plenty of crossword puzzles in publications across the country, but when we think of the pinnacle of puzzledom (Not officially a word, but, perhaps, it should be?), the purveyors of the most preeminent puzzles, we bow to The New York Times (NYT).

For more than 75 years, the NYT crossword puzzle has been stumping readers with its clever clues and then sending them soaring when they finally fill in all the squares.

When did the NYT Crossword begin?

When crossword puzzles first came about in the 1920s, the NYT turned up its nose at them. In 1924, the paper ran an opinion column that dubbed them, “a primitive sort of mental exercise”.

So, what absolved the crossword puzzle in the illustrious publication’s mind and made them eat their words? Reportedly, it was after the bombing of Pearl Harbor that Lester Markel, the paper’s Sunday editor at the time, decided the country could use some levity, primitive or not.

Crosswords became an American craze in the 1920s, but it took the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the urging of The New York Times publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger, a long-time crossword fan, to convince the features editor to run a crossword puzzle each Sunday.   In a memo dated December 18, 1941, an editor conceded that the puzzle deserved space in the paper, considering what was happening elsewhere in the world and that readers might need something to occupy themselves during blackouts.  The frivolous” feature, he admitted, would take people’s mind off the war and give them something to do while hunkered down in their bomb shelters.

Seventy-five years later, people continue to turn to crosswords for comfort and distraction. As the first editor of the crossword noted, “I don’t think I have to sell you on the increased demand for this kind of pastime in an increasingly worried world. You can’t think of your troubles while solving a crossword …” — Will Shortz

The first puzzle ran Sunday, February 15, 1942, and it was, in fact, a primitive pursuit, (Dictionary.com’s first definition for the adjective: “Being the first or earliest of the kind or in existence”), as they were the first major US paper to run a crossword puzzle. By 1950, the paper began running a crossword puzzle daily.

Since that time, there have only been four editors of the NYT Crossword puzzle, beginning with Margaret Farrar, who served as editor from the publication of the first puzzle until 1969. Will Weng and Eugene Maleska followed in her footsteps.

 

To print out a copy of the original crossword – CLICK HERE!

For the solution – CLICK HERE!

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Military Humor –

“Besides that, it ruins on only 2 flashlight batteries.”

 

 

SIGN POSTED IN THE ARMY RECRUITING OFFICE:

Marry a veteran girls!  He can cook, make beds,

sew and is already used to taking orders!

 

 

 

 

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Quarantine Humor –   THE ECONOMY IS SO BAD THAT….

 My neighbor got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

CEO’s are now playing miniature golf.

 Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.

I saw a Mormon with only one wife.

McDonald’s is selling the 1/4 ouncer.

Angelina Jolie adopted a child from America.

Parents in Beverly Hills fired their nannies and learned their children’s names.

A truckload of Americans was caught sneaking into Mexico.

A picture is now only worth 200 words.

When Bill and Hillary travel together, they now have to share a room.

The Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas is now managed by Somali pirates.

And, finally…

I was so depressed last night thinking about the economy, wars, jobs, my savings, Social Security, retirement funds, etc., that I called the Suicide Hotline. I got a call center in Pakistan, and when I told them I was suicidal, they got all excited and asked if I could drive a truck.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Melvin Askenase – FL; US Army, WWII & Korea

Clarence “Cubby” Bair – Troy, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO,17th & 82nd Airborne Division

Lester Cheary – Havana, AR; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, SSgt., 11th Airborne Division / US Navy, Korea, USS John Pierce

Homer Dunn – Woodrow, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Thomas Falzarano – Colorado Springs, CO; US Army, Iraq, Pentagon, Air Force Academy grad, Colonel, 21st Space Wing Commander

Frank Manzi – New Haven, CT; USMC, WWII, CBI, canine handler

James Mincey – Burlington, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Communications / Western Elec. engineer for antiaircraft & missile guidance radar

Ron Shurer – Fairbanks, AK; US Army, Afghanistan, SSgt., Special Operations Task Force, Medal of Honor

John C. Taylor – Warsaw, VA; US Army, Vietnam, MSgt., 82nd Airborne Division (Ret. 27 y.)

Fred Willard – Shaker Heights, OH; US Army, KY & VA Military Institutes alum / beloved actor

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on May 18, 2020, in Home Front, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 118 Comments.

  1. “Puzzledom” should definitely be a word. 🙂 What an entertaining article- I’ll have to print off that first one and see how I do! (Of course, I’m not very good at them- my mom LOVED the crossword.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s amazing how that “frivolous feature” is now probably the most popular item in that paper.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve always enjoyed crossword puzzles, and from time to time I’ll give the NYT a whirl. I didn’t know a lick of the history behind them, so this was especially interesting. Crosswords are one of those things that seemed always to just be “there” — I never even considered they might have a history. What amazes me are the people who create them. It’s hard enough to figure out the clues and all that, but can you imagine actually constructing one of those things from scratch?

    Liked by 1 person

    • An old boss and I used to do one and then compare notes – she got so aggravated by one editor that she had me make her a crossword, using words she would use to berate him. It wasn’t as easy as I first thought!!

      Like

      • I really laughed at that, GP! It reminded me of the days when we’d set out to play what we called ‘dirty word’ scrabble. Since we weren’t brave enough to use a lot of ‘those’
        words — and didn’t know a good number of the words that show up on television/social media now, it could be quite a challenge.We usually ended up fighting over whether ‘sink’ was a dirty word!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I learned about the crossword puzzle craze when I took a special topics history course on the 1920s. I didn’t know about the role of WWII in promoting its popularity!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. At times, I’ve dabbled. 🙂 Anything that can make someone think has to be good! And your humor. Funny. Especially this: Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen. (Odds are they probably doubled down.) They are like the tobacco industry. I once pushed a tobacco tax in the California legislature and when I walked in, there must have been at least 20 tobacco lobbyists present. We couldn’t even get a second for the bill! (I walked out, called a press conference and announced we were going for an initiative. :)) –Curt

    Like

  6. Interesting post! This reminds me of Matt’s mother who did NYT crossword puzzle every day. I’m not very good at crossword but I like Sudoku a lot. I enjoyed the Quarantine Humor. Need it these days!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This was such fun, GP. I was always horrible at crossword puzzles. I do love the hidden object games though. (I add them to my Kindle.) Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for another history lesson, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Very interesting bit of knowledge , GP .

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Interesting to read about this – in retrospect and with the relevance of corona. However, crosswords have never been my strongest virtue.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love this post. My grandmother just turned 94 this month – she is only just now beginning to lose connection with reality. The covid stuff has really thrown her for a whirl BUT… she still completes the daily crossword puzzle from the local paper. When I visit (still once a week, she will have it no other way, virus or no – but please no hate I maintain my distance and sanitize constantly although she looks at me puzzled when I refuse to hug her – “I can’t, Grandma, the virus!” – and gets very angry “I’m not a afraid of a silly virus!” Or “What virus?” Depending on how her mind is running that day.) we complete the puzzle together.
    No, wait. She completes the puzzle while I sit there pretending to help. Occasionally she throws an easy one my way. “What’s a five letter word for ‘use a broom’?
    It makes me feel smart. Grandmothers (and grandfathers I’m sure though none of mine lived long enough introduce themselves) are the best!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I’ve been doing the NYTimes puzzle for about 50 years now and never knew this history. THANK YOU!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Having idled many a Sunday away with NYT Crossword in front of a roaring fire, its good to ponder on its more constructive beginning; to help those cope with distress.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. That was a really interesting post although I must confess that I am totally hopeless at crosswords. With the first crossword that you provided, I was actually more taken with the beautiful pattern that the crossword had, and wonder that the compiler had found words that would fit correctly as the answers to every single clue.

    You might enjoy the following link to an extremely bizarre story about crosswords in WW2.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D-Day_Daily_Telegraph_crossword_security_alarm

    The Daily Telegraph also reported that “In 1994, a reader wrote in to point out that, four days before the Estonian ferry disaster, the crossword had included the words “Estonia”, “Disaster” and “Master Mariner”.

    Some remarkable coincidences!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Great post GP, we should could use distractions. Jigsaw puzzles are flying off the shelf too. I hope you’re well in Florida. Funny how things change. You’re probably not surprised I enjoy reading the New York Times but an editor having a high opinion of the publication doesn’t surprise me either. 🙂 Stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used to read the New York Times and then as I got older, I could see how one-sided they were. They are pretty much like our TV stations, a one way track of mind. I get their puzzle either online or in the Sun Sentinel/Palm Beach Post.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. That quarantine humor brought a welcome laugh, GP. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Hurrying right now, will read the rest of comments later …

    Crossword puzzles have been used also for sending messages to spies in the field. And there was a coincidence in WW2 that earned an editor a visit by the (UK) Official Heavies, ‘cos some of his clues included codenames of some of the Normandy landing beaches.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. How interesting! Although I’m more doing regular puzzles during lockdown, I used to enjoy the crossword puzzles during some of my lectures in college (shhhh, don’t tell my teachers 😉 ) I also think I remember reading a story (you might have read it!) that the Daily Telegraph crossword, in a very crazy coincidence, had three or four of the D-Day codewords in it on the eve of the invasion and intelligence had a bit of a meltdown.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Love the quarantine humour too.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Great story, GP!

    And your Q-Humor has me snort-laughing…loudly!!!!!!!! 😀 😛 One of the lines in particular sent me into a giggling fit! 😀

    I’ve always enjoyed crossword puzzles and all kinds of word puzzles! When we’d go on a road trip, I go buy myself a paperback book of puzzles to enjoy while traveling. That was like SO exciting and fun to me! 🙂
    I even enjoy jigsaw puzzles! 🙂

    HUGS!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  21. It is. I have never been good at them, something always trips me up and I quit. More of a board game person,,especially the old hexagonal war games that were popular in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Not a fan of the online war games. Most appear to me as too violent, too personal, and with characters that resemble nothing real. Keep up your great insights.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. My wife does them. I’m not good at it.
    They have never solved the famous mystery of the Crossword that appeared in a British Newspaper just before of the D-Day invasion that contained several code words (UTAH, OMAHA, OVERLORD, MULBERRY and NEPTUNE) for the invasion. Very difficult to believe it was coincidence.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Love the humor part, GP! Hope you and yours are well!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thank you for the crossword puzzle story, GP. The jokes had a couple of guffaws in there.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Lovely post, and I’m going to do you a favor. As a writer, I am considered a ‘neologist’–a legal inventor of new words. I officially declare ‘puzzledom’ to be a word in the English language.

    There you go.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. You knew I would enjoy this one – but

    Many years ago when I was regarded as the pub expert on all things Crossword, an American woman, struggling with the NYT was told that I would be able to solve it. I wasn’t much help – yet I could do the English Times cryptic in less than 5 minutes. I felt so ashamed 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah – but Americans have a lot of trouble with the cryptic, as a rule. We’re too used to regular ones. A person has to change the way they thinking to go from one to another (at least that’s how I feel about them).

      Liked by 3 people

      • True – my problem was that I didn’t know the references 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • I occasionally do the cryptics. I’m a former British car owner (Rover, MG, Imp) and subscriber to Autocar and Punch, so I get some of the Britishisms, such as “Prince of Darkness, to some,” in 5+8 letters. Yes, I use a ball point pen.

        BTW, there was an excellent crossword documentary, “Wordplay” (2006), starring Will Shortz, et al. You might enjoy it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I find I need a whole different frame of mind to do those cryptic crosswords – good for you!
          I never knew there was a docu for Will Shortz, I’ll look for it. Thanks.

          Like

  27. I’m not a fan of crosswords but I love the NPR Puzzle that is hosted by Will Shortz. Today’s humor brought some very welcome laughter. It’s amazing how tastes change in the face of a crisis. Good job GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. This post is quite revealing. Of course, a publisher can print whatever he or she (or they) want. “… it was after the bombing of Pearl Harbor that Lester Markel, the paper’s Sunday editor at the time, decided …” So, the NYT decided whether Americans should be treated to a crossword puzzle. Today, by offering a steady stream of fake news and half-truth, the NYT decides how we should think, as well. No surprise there.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. I’m hopeless at cryptic crosswords, my brain just doesn’t seem to function that way. Saying that, even the harder ‘normal’ crosswords can baffle me!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Thanks, GP, for the the backstory on one of my favorite hobbies. And the one-liners are much needed.

    Like

  31. Thanks GP. I know someone who will enjoy this. For myself I am waiting for the ” I survived corona _______ (fill in the blank) t-shirts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have the picture of a fellow blogger’s dog that I plan on using for that purpose! Funny you should mention it! I’d lay odds there are T-shirts already printed up waiting for the end of it.

      Like

  32. Love the jokes and the topic so much I plan to reblog it.

    Nice job, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. It’s really kind of funny how much I always liked doing the NY Times Crossword Puzzles. They’d get hard as the week progressed, and puzzle at the end of the week was really tough!!

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Very interesting!
    And it’s somewhat amazing that the NYT crosswords have had only four editors in all those years.

    Neil S.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. What fun! Yes, I printed it out. Also Tweeted this post. Been working x-words for decades (my sister does them in ink), and used to listen to Will Shortz regularly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I got hooked back in my teens from my mother. I envy your sister. I used to do crosswords in ink, but the older I am – the more unsure I get – especially with the NY Times.

      Like

  36. I’ve never done well with crosswords. I loved the quarantine humor, GP! We gotta laugh, right?

    Liked by 2 people

  37. Good jokes. I can’t imagine a newspaper or magazine without a crossword and all the various number puzzles we now get. I don’t suppose I could do the New York Times one though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I at least try. Some weeks it’s easier than the Los Angeles Times and other times harder. The clues can sometimes throw you off, but if you give it time the simple answer will come to you.

      Liked by 2 people

  38. Great information, GP! Crosswords are always a little bit horrible to me. 😉 But good for distraction.Thank you, be well and stay save. Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  39. Interesting trivia on the NYT Crossword Puzzle, but I must say I really enjoyed the Quarantine humor… especially the pre-declined credit card offer. >grin<

    Liked by 2 people

  40. This reminds me of my mother. She could complete a crossword puzzle in her sleep. I should take it up during this lockdown. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  41. I have never been very good at cryptic crosswords, so have great respect for the people that do the hard ones every day, like the famous Times Crossword in Britain.
    The quarantine jokes are very good. They could supply enough material for a complete stand-up session.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 5 people

  42. Thank you, Ian.

    Like

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