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Molly Cule
300248.  Sat Mar 22, 2008 8:55 am Reply with quote


The first published crossword was called a word-cross and appeared in the New York World in 1913. It was diamond shaped with no black squares.

The first published crossword was diamond-shaped with no black squares at all (instead there was a diamond-shaped cut out in the middle).

Crosswords evolved from acrostics (if you solved all the clues the first and/or last letters of the solutions would spell out another word or words), and the good old word square (the words read the same horizontally or vertically).

A version of the famous word square below was found in the ruins of Pompeii, among other places:


The square can be read in four ways - up, down, right, and left - and translates roughly as "The sower Arepo holds the wheels at work"

Cryptologists for Bletchley Park were selected for their ability to quickly do the Telegraph crossword. During World War Two, The Daily Telegraph were asked to hold a crossword competition, entrants did the crossword under exam condition and anyone who completed it in under 12 minutes was invited to work at Bletchley Park. The winner was F H W Hawes of Dagenham - finished in under eight minutes.

The Daily Telegraph's annual crossword competition is held in memory of the legendary compiler Bert Danher, who died in 2002. The trophies are presented by Sir Paul McCartney, who was Bert's nephew and godson.

When Saturday prize crosswords were introduced in 1928, the
winners' lists included Stanley Baldwin, Sir Austen Chamberlain and Lord Russel of Killoween. The then Prince of Wales, who was "not very good at solving crosswords", never appeared, though his private secretary did.

Molly Cule
300252.  Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:00 am Reply with quote

Have a Nice Day

The yellow smiley face, which was much loved by the acid house ravers was invented by an insurance company. Harvey Ball, a graphic artist, designed the logo and had it printed on buttons and given out around the offices of an insurance company to improve morale after the company merged with another organisation. This was in 1963. The company was part of the State Mutual insurance company. Nowadays Walmart uses it on their uniforms in the US and has done since 1996. Urgh. It is also on number plates in Kentucky.

Molly Cule
300253.  Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:01 am Reply with quote

Mr Potato Head
Mr. Potato Head was the first toy to be advertised on television, and was the first toy that featured real produce. Originally you bought the eyes, ears, noses, a body and accessories that you'd push onto a real potato. Then, in 1964 a moulded plastic potato body became part of the toy. Back then, Mr. Potato Head also had friends including Carrots, Cucumbers, Oranges, Peppers and a love interest, Mrs. Potato Head. With Brother Spud and Sister Yam there was an entire Potato Head family, and all of the packaging carried the slogan "Lifelike Fruits Or Vegetables To Change Into Funny, Lovable Friends."

He has been involved in some PR campaigns, in the American Cancer Society's annual "Great American Smokeout" campaign he gave up smoking and handed his pipe to then Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, he stopped being a couch potato for the President's Council on Physical Fitness, and joined the League of Women Voters for their "Get Out the Vote" initiative to spread the word amongst Americans that they should use their vote.

Walkers potato head crisps, animated potato head was modelled on Gary Lineker.

an octopus who likes his mr potato head

Molly Cule
300254.  Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:03 am Reply with quote

Bermuda shorts were first made in London, as British military uniform. They were created for the British soldiers stationed in Bermuda, who wore them with long socks and brown shoes.

Within Bermuda, in the 1950’s it became fashionable to wear the shorts with a short sleeved jacket and tie.

A law was passed to make sure shorts were no more than 6 inches above the knee. Policemen with tape measures issued warning tickets for men showing too much leg.

In Bermuda businessmen still regularly wear them with a blazer and tie, they can be worn with a tuxedo and they are even worn by politicians in the House of Assembly.
law -

Molly Cule
300255.  Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:04 am Reply with quote


The inventor of the slinky, Richard James, a naval engineer had the idea when a spring fell off his desk and began to walk across the floor. This was in 1943. His wife liked the idea of the toy, named it Slinky and the product took off. Luckily the wife was into the slinky as Richard wasn’t, he got bored, left his wife and children and joined a religious cult – an evangelical bunch of Episcopolians - in Bolivia. She took over the business, diversified into lots of types of slinky and made a fortune when she sold out in 1998. Slinkys were used in the Vietnam war as mobile radio antennas.

Molly Cule
300256.  Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:05 am Reply with quote


In the 1930’s pinball as we know it began except the games had no flippers. The first versions, eg one called Baffle Ball, balls were fired onto the board for a penny and the player got to watch fatalistically as the fall slipped down to the bottom. Players started ‘nudging’ the board to jiggle the ball about.

Pinball machines were officially banned in New York by Mayor LaGuardia on January 21, 1942 because the administration viewed the game as a "game of luck" rather than a "game of skill", hence making a pinball machine a gambling device (in their eyes). To celebrate the new ban, Mayor LaGuardia smashed up pinball machines in front of large crowd of onlookers.

Molly Cule
300257.  Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:06 am Reply with quote

Toga party - one of America’s first-known toga parties took place in the White House in the 1930’s. Eleanor Roosevelt hosted a toga party in an attempt to poke fun at the politicians and newswriters who viewed F.D.R. as a second Caesar.

Molly Cule
300258.  Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:07 am Reply with quote

Frisbee – named after the Frisbee Pie Company who made pies that were sold to colleges in NYC. The students used to throw the empty pie cases. Then someone called Morrisson developed this and called it the Pluto Platter. Then someone else improved this and called it Frisbee again. In 1968 the US Navy spent $400,000 on a Frisbee launching machine for military use……… whatever that means.
The Bumper book of Fads.

Molly Cule
300259.  Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:08 am Reply with quote

Pacman – was invented by a Japanese designer, Toru Iwatanio, in a pizza restaurant, he cut one slice out and saw a giant, eating face
s - Bumper book of Fads.

Molly Cule
300260.  Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:09 am Reply with quote

The story goes that the metal detector was invented by AG Bell to locate the missing bullet inside President Garfield’s body. This bumper book of fads says so too. However, Mitch has posted something on this on the ‘Scottish inventions’ thread, saying that the metal detector did not work in locating the bullet as it instead picked up the metal on the President’s bed.

Molly Cule
300261.  Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:11 am Reply with quote

Rubicks cube – Invented by Erno Rubik in 1974, he was a architect from Hungary. He decided to design a puzzle that would reflect nature as he saw it, complex yet simple with geometry in all things, h’apparently. He said his inspiration for the internal mechanism came from the Danube. Watching pebbles that had been smoothed and rounded by the water he designed a cylindrical internal structure to hold the cube together. He showed his design to his students who liked it. It took 3 years for the first few cubes to be made by toy-making co-operative Politechnika. Then in 1978 a waiter in Budapest sold his cube to a customer, a computer manufacturer from Vienna called Dr Tibor Laczi. Laczi decided to market and sell the cubes, it took a long time but eventually he was able to persuade the manufacturing company to trade with the West. They the company couldn’t keep up with demand so pirate cubes from the Far East accounted for half the initial swathe of sales. Rubik made a fortune and started smoking better cigarettes.

There are more than 43 trillion configurations but only one solution. The formula for solving the cube in the least possible moves is called ‘God’s algorithm’, in 2007 this was said to be 26.

There are competitions now where people solve the cubes with their eyes shut, from memory.
Bumper book of Fads.

Molly Cule
300262.  Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:13 am Reply with quote

Fortune/Fads - When the National Lottery was launched in November 1994 the Sun created a full-time lottery correspondent called Lenny Lottery, the Sun persuaded him to change his name by deed poll if he really wanted the job. He was a recent graduate from Manchester University called Aidan McGurran. His brief with his new name was to make sure he didn’t miss out on any stories: winners, losers, rats, divorcees, sex addicts etc.. When the interest in the Lottery wore off Lenny left the Sun for the Mirror taking his name and his lottery suit with him – white suit with red bobbles on. The Mirror took him to court for his name and outfit and won the lawsuit.

Winning the lottery doesn’t ruin your life, like the sceptics say, more than 90% of winners are happier a year after their win than they were before.

We had national lotteries between 1566 and 1826 when the government let money raised be used for building Westminster Bridge, the British Museum and colonising Virginia. The tickets were expensive - £10 a time but were usually bought in smaller shares.,,2264751,00.html

Molly Cule
300264.  Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:15 am Reply with quote

Etch a sketch

The original Etch-A-Sketch was operated with a joystick. The invention was the brainchild of Andre Cassagnes, a French electrician tinkering in his garage. Conceived in 1950, the drawing toy made use of a joystick, glass and aluminum powder (how it works it the aluminium powder clings to the screen, the moving stylus inside removes the powder from the screen as you move it about with the knobs so the picture you create is made out of darkness in the box). He called it L'Ecran Magique, and made its debut at a European Toy Fair in 1959. American Henry Winzeler, founder and president of the Ohio Art Toy Company, licensed L'Ecran Magique and introduced it to America in 1960. There the joystick was replaced with two white knobs, the idea was to make the toy look like a television.

There is a man called Tim George, aka Mr Etch a sketch who draws American president’s portraits, animals, buildings – all sorts – on the toys. His work has been turned into an etch a sketch gallery and a calendar. He works on each work for 15 hours with tiny breaks.

The artists who use Etch a Sketch usually make them permanent by taking out the plastic backing.

Molly Cule
300269.  Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:26 am Reply with quote


During WW2 the British secret service made a plan with Waddingtons to use Monopoly games to help prisoners of war escape. They were already working with Waddingtons to make silk maps, which were far more useful for spies than paper ones as they are silent and durable in all weather conditions.

In 1941 production began, the Waddingtons factory set aside a small, secure room—unknown to the rest of its employees—where skilled craftsmen sat carved niches into the games’ cardboard boxes. Along with the standard thimble, car, and Scotty dog, the POW version included additional “playing” pieces, such as a metal file, a magnetic compass, and of course, a regional silk escape map, complete with marked safe-houses along the way—all neatly concealed in the game’s box. Some of the money was real. Escape maps specific to the areas the games would be distributed – in food and clothing parcels – were hidden in each game set. Allied soldiers and pilots headed to the front lines were told to look for the special edition game if they were captured. These editions had a red dot in the corner of the Free Parking space.

We talked about Monopoly being the invention of a communist, an anti-capitalist game. Whether or not this is true, Soviet leaders tried coming up with their own Marxist-themed spin-off games designed to highlight the virtues of frugality. The title of one such knockoff from Communist-era Hungary loosely translated to “Save,” while another in Russia had a name that roughly meant “Manager.” You can see pictures of the Russian game of ‘Manager’ here

300336.  Sat Mar 22, 2008 12:37 pm Reply with quote

Bunter also sent me this:
We have Frisbees courtesy of the Frisbie Pie Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

In the 1870s, confectioner William Russell Frisbie started a bakery that carried a range of homemade pies in circular tins branded with the family name.

In the mid-1940s throwing the pans became a favourite pastime of students at Yale University, whose New Haven campus was not far away from the Frisbie Pie Company’s headquarters.

The pastime gained momentum due to Californian Walter Frederick Morrison who was a keen UFO-logist.

In 1957, he teamed up with the Wham-O company and brought out lightweight metal toy disks called ‘Flyin’ Saucers’. In order to increase sales, Wham-O’s CEO Richard Knerr went to promote the Saucers at Yale and Harvard. He was astonished to find that they were already throwing around pie tins called ‘Frisbies’. As a result, Knerr trademarked the word ‘Frisbee’ in 1959.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Source: Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things


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