We begin with a few word puzzle precursors.
- 1150 BC: 'Crossword Stela' of Paser, a 20th Dynasty Egyptian limestone stele, constructed by Paser, during the reign of Ramesses VI
- 1st Millenium BC: In the Hebrew version of Psalm 119, each group of eight verses is an alphabetical acrostic (or abecedarius). "Subsections are named after the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, 'Aleph', 'Beth', etc. ... Acrostics prove that the texts in question were originally composed in writing, rather than having existed in oral tradition before being put into writing."
- 169 BC: an acrostic poem by Quintus Ennius; the first letters of each line spelled out, 'Quae Q. Ennius fecit' (Q. Ennius wrote this).
- 1599: Hymns to Astraea by Sir John Davies; each hymn (verse) spelled out Elisabeth Regina (Queen Elizabeth).
- 1846: A Valentine by Edgar Allen Poe; poem spelled out the name of Frances Sargent Osgood in the 1st letter of the 1st line, 2nd letter of the 2nd line, etc.
- 1850s: acrostics evolved from poems to puzzles. "A flood of British acrostic books were published which not only praised kings and conquerors but were also intended to educate children in history and geography. The double acrostic was a fad in the latter part of the 19th century. Queen Victoria was believed to be very fond of the double acrostic which, by this time, had evolved from a verse-form into a type of puzzle. This double acrostic was supposedly written by her royal hand."
- 1870s: A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky by Lewis Carroll: poem from Through the Looking Glass; a "master of acrostics", Carroll was also famous for "word links" (doublet, aka word ladder)
- Diamond and other shape word 'squares' American magazine, St. Nicholas
- 1890: "Per passare il tempo" ("To pass the time") by Giuseppe Airoldi in Il Secolo Illustrato della Domenica (on right).
Arguably the first crossword (w/ clues) but a 'one-off'.