D S MACNUTT was educated at Marlborough College and Jesus College, Cambridge, where he took a double first in Classics. From 1928 to 1963 he was a Housemaster and Head of Classics at Christ's Hospital School in West Sussex. He became crossword setter for the 'Observer'
from 1939 until his death in 1971, composing puzzles under the pseudonym of 'Ximenes' (a Cardinal and Grand Inquisitor of Spain) as well as the popular 'Everyman' crosswords in that newspaper. The principles of crossword composition which he has laid down, with the notion that being fair to the solver is of paramount importance, have become the foundations for crossword setters. Indeed Ximenes is considered to be the father of the modern crossword puzzle.
COLIN DEXTER is the author of the 'Inspector Morse' novels, which have been adapted for television with phenomenal success. He has won many awards and in 1997 was presented with the CWA Diamond Dagger for outstanding services to crime literature. In 2000 he was awarded the OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. A highly successful and enthusiastic Ximenes crossword solver himself, he used the names of two of his fellow solvers as the principal detectives in his books.
CHAPTER I: BEGINNINGS
This introductory chapter will not attempt to give a detailed historical account of the coming of crossword puzzles. Such an account would be alien to the purpose of this book, which is the ambitious one - perhaps too ambitious - of trying to arrive at a system of principles which can make the crossword more enjoyable and rewarding to solvers, whether they be among the millions of desultory solvers, content sometimes to fill in only part of a puzzle to pass an odd half-hour, or among the many thousands of real enthusiasts, determined to reach a full solution, whether of an easy or of a difficult puzzle. The main point I want to make is that the system will be just the same for all types of solver, though they may not all realize it: its first principle will be that the clue-writer's aim must be never to leave the solver with a possible answer in his mind that he is afraid to write in because it doesn't, for some reason, seem a fully satisfactory or certain answer, only to find, when he sees the solution, that it was the right answer. That aim will not be achieved unless the composer becomes an unwavering adherent of a principle laid down for clue-writers long ago by Afrit of the 'Listener': "I need not mean what I say, but I must say what I mean." Of this much more anon, in its proper place; but our first paragraph cannot be complete without it.
Of very early crosswords I shall not say very much, simply because their clues were all definitions; and while I know there are still plenty of solvers who are satisfied to fill in a diagram by writing down the answers to definitions, the majority of solvers nowadays demand, I am sure, something more ingenious to pit their wits against, something which is provided by what is normally called the cryptic clue, whose coming we shall discuss in the next chapter. In the United States, the original source of this, as of so many other ingenious things, it is, I believe, curiously enough, otherwise: though the crossword puzzle there is over fifty years old, definition clues are still the normal thing. There must be, however, voices there crying in the wilderness; for I have some solvers there, as in many other parts of the world, of my Ximenes puzzles, and I know that many other British puzzles, with cryptic clues, are solved there too.
It was in 1913 that an American journalist named Arthur Wynne, who had earlier emigrated from Liverpool (so that we may at least claim that the inventor of crosswords was originally English) constructed several specimen puzzles and submitted them to the Editor of the New York 'Sunday World'. He liked the idea and ran a crossword in his paper for about ten years before anyone else followed suit.
The next step came in 1923. In that year two young men lately down from Harvard, Mr Robert Simon and Mr Lincoln Schuster, compiled a book of crosswords in New York, containing fifty simple puzzles. Three-quarters of a million copies were sold within a few weeks of publication at about 5s. 6d. each, so that the venture was a very profitable one. Soon newspapers from New York to San Francisco began publishing puzzles daily.
As far as Great Britain is concerned, there have been several claims and counter-claims on the subject of the crossword's introduction. Some records are muddled or self-contradictory, others were lost in the last war; and whenever the files of papers or magazines have failed to survive their moves to different premises, the memories of present or former members of their staffs have become vague and historically untrustworthy. We have only included here what is based on reliable evidence.
On 2 November 1924, about a year after the appearance of the American book, the 'Sunday Express' published on>. As it happened, the first puzzle chosen for publication contained a word with an American spelling, and in order to eliminate it, Mr Shepherd was forced to make a drastic reconstruction of the diagof the crossword, but also as its introducer to this country.