Reagle solves crossword mystery

2013-12-22T00:00:00Z 2014-03-10T11:54:42Z Reagle solves crossword mysteryArizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 22, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Fans of Merl Reagle’s crossword puzzles know the crafty wordsmith loves challenges of clues and deduction.

In addition to 50 new puzzles, his newest book, “Merl Reagle’s 100th Anniversary Crossword Book,” includes the sleuthing that Reagle and his better half, Marie Haley, started in 1998 to find the grave of Arthur Wynne, the man who invented the crossword.

Wynne was an editor at the New York World when he was tasked to create a game for the paper’s Fun section.

His “word-cross” debuted 100 years ago — Dec. 21, 1913 — with white squares arranged in a diamond-shaped grid, above a list of definitions. He instructed readers to fill in the squares with words that matched the definitions.

It was a hit. Yet despite the puzzle’s popularity, the newspaper declined to copyright it — calling it a fad, Reagle said.

In 1921, Wynne stepped down as crossword editor and the job went to Margaret Petherbridge, who gradually came up with rules for creating crosswords. Every letter had to be part of a word going across and one going down. Puzzles had to use English words that were at least three letters long. And the mix of blank squares and filled-in squares had to be symmetrical.

Reagle’s book contains lots of crossword history in addition to information about Wynne, who was born in Liverpool, England, played the violin and wanted to be a newspaper man. He emigrated to the United States in 1891 at the age of 19.

“We found out a lot of stuff about Arthur Wynne we didn’t know before,” said Reagle, including that Wynne, who died in 1945 at the age of 74, is survived by a daughter, now in her 80s and living in Florida.

The book also includes drawings by Jim Borgman, who illustrates the nationally syndicated comic strip “Zits.” One depicts Reagle talking at the Arizona Daily Star authors tent at the Tucson Festival of Books, where he and Borgman met several years ago.

Reagle, whose crosswords appear in Caliente on Thursdays, will sign copies of the book ordered through his website, www.sundaycrosswords.com . He will also sign copies at the next Tucson Festival of Books, which is March 15-16.

As to what Reagle learned about Wynne’s eternal resting place, crossword fans will have to read his book to find out.

The Washington Post contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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