Today is the 100th anniversary of the invention of the crossword puzzle.
That may explain why Brian Jean, the Conservative MP for Fort McMurray-Athabasca, recently sat down, penned a crossword puzzle and then used his Government of Canada mailing privileges to post it to his constituents, including those who still have mail delivered to their front doors.
Alert readers will recall that the late Pierre Trudeau, back when he was prime minister of Canada, observed famously that MPs were nobodies when they wandered a few blocks from Parliament Hill. Prime Minister Harper has extended that judgment – backbench MPs are now nobodies on the Hill too!
Well, whatever. In his crossword, obviously created with one of dozens of free online crossword generators – so at least that part didn’t cost you any tax money – Mr. Jean asked such penetrating questions as “Brian’s favourite colour,” and “How many grandchildren does Brian have?” (Answers: Who cares?)
No one would have been the wiser if my sharp-eyed colleague Dave Cournoyer, author of the excellent Daveberta.ca blog, hadn’t noticed and passed this vital national information along to his readers.
Now that this clue has entered the broader political domain, it’s to be hoped that it was cryptic enough (as it were) that Mr. Jean doesn’t get in trouble with the Prime Minister’s Office. This being Alberta, alas, he’s certainly not going to get in any trouble with his constituents – something that can’t be said of one of his provincial counterparts from the steamy environs of Fort Mac!
Regardless, the crossword above has been penned in tribute to Mr. Jean’s efforts, and in the hope he can do a little better with his next taxpayer-supported mail-out to constituents. It also marks a century to the day since the first crossword – created by Arthur Wynne – appeared in the New York World on Dec. 21, 1913.
Just think, until the invention of pocket-sized digitized music devices, there was no other way on long train and airplane trips to keep other passengers from telling you their boring life stories! Talk about a boon to Mankind!
We can expect the crossword, in its second century, to outlive the newspaper – the medium that gave it life.
But what comes around goes around, and the humble newsprint puzzle may return the favour: if any newspapers manage to survive the next decade, let alone the current century, surely they will owe their existence to this durable and popular puzzle!
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.