Once the Cross-Word Puzzle was something you worked out in the newspaper. Now it is something Dame Fashion works out in women’s clothes!
When Arthur Wynne of Mountain Lakes, N.J., a modest and retiring newspaper man, invented the brain-teasing vertical and horizontal combination, he planned to amuse his children and their playmates. But it wasn’t long before everybody in the Jersey town was lugging a dictionary and a copy of Wynne’s latest acrostic. Then the fad was taken up by New York and points West.
However, it was when the new season brought out the latest things in feminine toggery that everybody discovered Fashion has become an addict to the little black and white squares. Sometimes she goes so far as to letter them, working out clever words and phrases down the fronts of gowns or stockings!
One such gown was brought into America by a debutante who had been visiting Paris—proving that the French capital is solving ‘em, too!
Then there was the cross-word frock that electrified Palm Beach the other day, with the little white blocks all waiting for somebody’s pencil and a few key letters scattered here and there.
There is the cross-word coat, a dashing sports garment of soft wool with the checks somewhat larger than they appear in the silks of dresses.
The slipper with the cross-word buckle is one of the least bizarre innovations of the fad. But the puzzle stockings, guaranteed to make women look shorter and men look longer, offer plenty of opportunity for mental exercise.
The cross-word hat now rules the millinery world. And the smartest thing of the moment for masquerades is a cross-word costume. San Francisco [CA] Chronicle March 1925: p. 1
As for the novelties in shoes, the “cross-word” pump is probably the outstanding footwear of the season. It is shown in checked satin with a cross-word block pattern in black and white, and while no words are designed to fit into the squares, no doubt some bright mind will think of some.
So if a maiden is seen with her eyes modestly cast down, don’t conclude that she is shy; she’s probably trying to think of a word of four letters to fit in the space across the vamp of her cross-word pump.
Indeed it’s going to be a disturbing season for the cross-word fans for if no cross-word pumps are in sight, there’s almost sure to be a cross-word silk frock, and think of all the words to be fitted into a dress pattern, even a short as the present ones!
These cross-word prints come in three color combinations, most attractive in themselves, but the opportunities they offer for mental exercise was dazzling. Think of a quiet afternoon spent with a girl so arrayed; a modern Omar [Khayyam] might indeed write:
“A cross-word frock, a loaf of bread, and thou, oh, wilderness were paradise enow.” Tampa [FL] Tribune 3 March 1925: p. 18
On the other hand, some were less than sanguine about the fashionable fad:
POPULAR CRAZE GRIPS ENGLAND.
LONDON, January 10. The first cross-word frock appeared on Bond street yesterday, indicating Britain’s final surrender to the cross-word puzzle craze. The familiar black-and-white squares, arranged in fantastic groupings, adorned the frock, the ends of the scarf, the front of the small felt hat, and the sides of the new fashionable envelope-shaped handbag. Cross-word “jumpers” are also appearing daily. Otago [NZ] Daily Times 16 January 1925: p. 8
Cross-Word Stockings American Fad in Paris
Paris, Jan. 2. The “cross-word puzzle” stocking is the latest novelty among Paris hosiery makers.
When the first really cold days of Winter came, silk stockings of gossamer texture were gradually discarded and many women adopted fine hand-made Angora wool stockings.
This is the material of which the “cross-word puzzle” stockings are made. A shopkeeper got the idea from a puzzle design which he saw two American women working over while waiting to be served. A few days later he displayed in his windows a stocking of checker-board design with the squares in black and white, about the same size and distributed haphazard in the manner which has become familiar to lovers of cross-word puzzles.
The novelty has found good customers among American women, but French women call it hideous. The cross-word fad itself has not reached France as yet. Trenton [NJ] Evening Times 2 January 1925: p. 2
The girls themselves are using the verticals and horizontals to enhance their charm. The squares in picturesque arrangement now appear as borders on scarfs, trimming on hats, sweaters, dresses, not only in black and white, but in every shade of the spectrum.
There is now cross-word jewelry, rings, bracelets and brooches; cross-word stockings, with a key-letter at the top of the first column, and cross-word lingerie, of black and white chiffon. And fashionable hostesses are likewise serving cross-word muffins at their tea tables—cakes made of brown bread and white! San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 26 April 1925: p. 10
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: To-day is “Dictionary Day,” so Mrs Daffodil felt that a reprise of this wordy fashion fad would not come amiss. The cross-word craze raged across the States in the 1920s creating a generation of feverish enthusiasts. Librarians complained that “legitimate users” of dictionaries were being thrust aside by puzzle-fiends, while newspapers such as The New York Times (now known for its difficult cross-words) sniffed at the fad and predicted its demise within months.
Mrs Daffodil was amused by the “cross-word stockings.” If worked in pencil, one is apt to poke holes in the gossamer fabric; if the solver is one of those insufferable persons who works cross-words in ink, there is hell to pay in the bath. The young lady wearing the “cross-word hat,” looks rather desperate, as if the chapeau was one of those mitres worn by heretics at the stake. One notes two damning words filling her puzzle squares: “hot,” as in le jazz hot and “nut,” which was the male equivalent of a “flapper.”
Originally, Mrs Daffodil sought in vain for extant examples of these ephemeral garments. One wonders if this tennis dress was an echo of the cross-work frock?
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.