Can You Solve These 1879 “Crossword” Puzzles?

In honor of National Crossword Puzzle Day, we found some of the very first “Cross Word” games published in the Post in the late 1800s. See how they compare to modern crosswords.

Crossword

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The first modern crossword puzzle appeared in the New York World newspaper on December 21, 1913. There were items called “cross word” puzzles long before that date, but resembled modern crosswords only in that they were both word games. As long ago as 1879, the Post ran something it called “Cross Word” puzzles alongside acrostics, cryptograms, anagrams, and other brain teasers.

Examples of Cross Word Puzzles

The purpose of these Cross Words was to discover a word within a group of letters. On each line, readers were given the letters of one word, from which they were to subtract the letters of a second word. From these remaining letters, one letter from each line would reveal the word. The main clue to the word was contained in the last two lines of the poem.

In the February 15, 1879, puzzle below, for example, the first line tells you that the first letter of the mystery word could be any of the six letters in message minus the letters in not. So you would subtract the repeated letters and be left with m.e.s.a.g. Once you narrowed down the choices that could be used for the letter of the final word, you would then refer to the last two lines of the poem to guess the answer. (The valid letters for each line are shown in parentheses, and the correct letter is printed in red.)

In message but not in not, (m. e. s. a. g.)
In ballot but not in vote, (b. a. l.)
In flower but not in bud, (f. l. o. w. e. r.)
In water but not in mud, (w. a. t. e. r.)
In winter but not in spring, (w. t. e.)
In bellow but not in slug, (b. e. o. w.)
In promise but not in wish, (p. r. o. m. e.)
In minnow but not in fish. (m. n. o. w.)

Whole emits a shining light
Only to be seen at night.

The answer — glowwormcan be found by looking at the main clue in the final couplet, then using the available letters to find the right word.

The solutions to puzzles always appeared in the following week’s issue. Readers who sent in correct puzzle solutions won six-month subscriptions to the Post. However, they had to submit answers to all the puzzles on the page to be considered for the prize.

Here’s another, from June 28, 1879:

In wherefore not in wily,
In purchase not in buy,
In juiceless not in dry,
In explore not in pry,
In submit not in try,
In vanish not in fly,
In behold not in spy,
In lament not in cry,
In labor not in ply,
The answer will imply,
An answer or reply.

Answer: Rejoinder

Double Cross Word Puzzles

A double cross word puzzle worked the same way, except that each line contains two letters that create two different words, as in this puzzle from September 6, 1879:

In cheap not in dear,
In bright not in clear,
In cat not in mouse,
In park not in house.
In crawl not in run,
In priest not in nun,
In cakes not in ale,
In dark not in pale,
In chip not in wood,
In cap not in hood,
In keep not in moat,
In sheep not in goat,
In worn not in old.
In brass not in gold.

The WHOLE’S the name of a noted book.
Amusing it will prove;
You may also for its author look,
You will find them both above.

Answers: Pickwick Papers and Charles Dickens

Word Shape Puzzles

Another type of puzzle didn’t use the name cross word, but was closer to the modern crosswords we know. To solve the puzzle, you use the clues to choose words that, when their letters are properly aligned, create a shape. You know if the answers are correct if they read both vertically and horizontally or, if the clues indicate, digaonally. Here’s an example:

A SQUARE, from September 13, 1879

  1. A town in Italy
  2. An ancient French philosopher
  3. A half foot in poetry
  4. A crystalizable substance
  5. A river in Virginia
  6. One of the British isles
  7. Appendixes

Solution:

C A S O R I A
A B E L A R D
S E M I P E D
O L I V I L E
R A P I D A N
I R E L A N D
A D D E N D A

 

A SQUARE, from March 8, 1879

  1. A man ne’er needs a barber more,
    Than when his hair is first;
  2. This lord egged on a cruel war,
    That on our land did burst;
  3. A sort of wicker basket this
    To carry queen’s-ware in;
  4. To put in circulation this–
    or issue bogus “tin.”
  5. Opposed to here, means FIFTH and last–
    A word you will require
    To solve this square and send a list
    Complete as you desire.

Solution:

U N C U T
N O R T H
C R A T E
U T T E R
T H E R E

Try Your Hand at These 19th Century Puzzles

With this introduction, we offer three puzzles from 1879:

Puzzle #1: Cross Word, from July 26, 1879

In wrong not in right,
In dark not in night,
In yeast not in light,
In wreck, not in storm,
In shape not in form,
In learn not in know,
In send not in go.
The whole ‘mongst children you will find

An inclination of the mind.

Puzzle #2: No. 86 Square, from April 5, 1879

  1. A disease
  2. A shoot
  3. Idle
  4. Rough
  5. A town in Ohio
  6. To serve

Puzzle #3: No. 107 A Diamond, April 19, 1879

  1. A letter
  2. A quibble
  3. Relating to an hour
  4. Sagacious
  5. Traditional
  6. An idiot
  7. A flower
  8. An abbreviation for one of the U.S.
  9. A letter

Solutions

Solution to Puzzle #1

Wayward

Solution to Puzzle #2

A S T H M A
S P R O U T
T R U A N T
H O A R S E
M U N S O N
A T T E N D

Solution to Puzzle #3

A

P U N

H O R A L

P O L I T I C

A U R I C U L A R

N A T U R A L

L I L A C

C A L

R

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