Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Clue: Crossword Inventor (8 letters). Answer: Neighbor. Bing! Story idea.

Every morning I sit at my kitchen counter in a sleepy New Jersey suburb and work the New York Times crossword puzzle, with varying rates of success (and failure). How many times I've sworn in frustration, "Who invented this damn puzzle thing anyway!"

Well, if it were 1913, I could have confronted the chap, who lived just a few blocks from my house. Had I been able to stroll right over, would I have belted him or kissed his face for providing me (and millions of others) with so much tortured pleasure?

I settled for writing about him since on this day 97 years ago, the first crossword (then called a "word-cross") appeared.

P.S. I love how this illustrates what I so often tell new (or frustrated) freelance writers -- that story ideas are absolutely everywhere, even in the places we so often overlook. And, that eavesdropping and just hanging around letting others talk are two prime ways to find new leads. I first learned of this journalist/inventor (who is now largely forgotten) at a community picnic when I lingered at a table staffed by members of the local historical society, who were only too happy to ply any patient listener with "And did you also know...." stories.


Andrea said...

This is a great article, and a wonderful tribute to the heretofore unsung inventor of the crossword puzzle. Thanks!

Barbara Backus said...

I really enjoyed this article. It certainly proves that you never know where you'll find good ideas!

kario said...

Thanks for your continued inspiration!