Still easily the most popular form of puzzle today, the crossword started life in 1914 when English journalist Arthur Wynne, working on the New York World, had some extra space to fill in their Christmas issue. He devised a simple ‘Word Cross’ and the puzzle was an instant hit, becoming a regular feature that was soon imitated by rival newspapers.

      By the 1920s, whole books of crossword puzzles were being published in the USA and a national craze ensued. With the stock market crash of 1929, many assumed the fad for crosswords would simply die out during the recession, but quite the opposite happened. The daily crossword offered an escape from the depressing newspaper headlines, while the lure of cash prizes and the challenge of competitions propelled the crossword to ever-greater levels of popularity. People even attended crazy crossword parties, sporting black-and-white chequered fancy dress!

      Meanwhile – and with a little more decorum – British newspapers developed the cryptic crossword, and in the post-war era, a variety of other crossword puzzles began to emerge world-wide: general knowledge, rhymes, secret codes, and so on.

      By the 1970s, the European passion for puzzle magazines finally hit Britain too. The fierce rivalry between these titles led to an explosion of innovative ideas and designs, yet the possibilities remain endless. During the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s, they continued to thrive, and today puzzle titles account for a staggering percentage of all magazines sold in the UK. On top of this this, almost every women’s weekly, lads’ mag or children’s comic on sale features its own puzzle or competition, and the demand seems insatiable.

      The versatility of the crossword puzzle lends itself to all kinds of themes and permutations, from fact and fiction to sports and celebrities. Crosswords have given rise to Arrow Words, Fill Ins, Codebreakers, Skeletons and many more puzzle varieties, and their ability to test and tantalise us means they are here to stay!