(Quick intro from Russell – One of the things we’ve been trying to do with Newspaper Club is make sure we honour some of the traditions and textures of newspapers. Not the floundering around in unsuccessful business models, obviously, but the little bits around the edges; weather maps, jargon, graphics, the stuff that makes something feel like a newspaper. Alfred has been helping us out research this and he’s turned up such interesting material that we asked him to share that on here. It doesn’t mean we’ll be putting crosswords in our finished product, though I guess we might, but it’s still interesting. So, ladies and gentlemen – Here’s Alfred!)
Researching newspaper culture and history you quickly understand how many things have changed and how many times the industry has faced drastic changes. Classic newspapers have gone through as many redesigns as editors-in-chief, but a few things have been surprisingly persistent throughout history.
One of the things that basically hasn’t changed since its first appearance is the crossword, invented by journalist Arthur Wynne in 1913 and first published in New York World. The idea was inspired by a children’s game called magic squares and the design of it came naturally given the limited graphical possibilities with that day’s printing.
The design has pretty much remained the same since then, with cryptic crosswords looking identical almost 100 years later and seen as iconic examples of graphic design. The New York Times was the only classic newspaper too conservative for the idea and it would take until 1942 until they published their first one (and today they are seen as the best in the world.) The first Times crossword appeared in 1930 and the UK with it soon developed their own distinct grid when making crosswords.
Praxis holds that when crafting crosswords they should have a 180-degree rotational symmetry so that it looks the same upside down and white cells must be orthogonally contiguous, which means that they are all connected forming a white mass. The Japanese makes even more complex crosswords, black cells can’t share sides and that all corner cells must be white. The Swedish ones are quite unique in that the clues are all written in cells within the crossword.
Interesting crossword related bits and bobs on the internet:
Emily Jocureton does illustrations based on the New York Times crossword.