SHERIDAN — Crossword puzzles are an integral component of newspapers. In addition to their entertainment quality, crossword puzzles can help improve cognition and brain health in individuals of all ages.

The first known crossword puzzle to be published was created by a British journalist named Arthur Wynne, who is often credited as the inventor of crosswords. The first puzzle appeared in the New York World on December 21, 1913. The original crossword was diamond-shaped and did not feature the familiar black squares.

Throughout the 1920s, crossword puzzles became a standard offering in many newspapers. During this period, puzzle shapes evolved to the more familiar form, and certain puzzle standards were established. Puzzles now appearing in most North American newspapers and magazines feature solid areas of white squares. Each letter is usually part of both an “across” word and a “down” word, and usually each answer must contain at least three letters. In these puzzles, shaded squares are typically limited to about one-sixth of the total.

It is estimated that around 50 million people in America routinely partake in crossword puzzles. Each year, one best-of-the-best is crowned in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

Everyone wants to improve his or her crossword-puzzling skills. These tips can help.

• Practice  — a lot. Practice makes perfect, even with crossword puzzles. Start with simple puzzles and work up to the more difficult ones.

• Divide and conquer. Divide the puzzle into smaller sections and complete each cluster before moving on. It’s easier than completing all of the across or down clues.

• Watch “Jeopardy.” Puzzles used to be comprised largely of definitions, but they now incorporate just about every subject. Improving general knowledge and perhaps watching trivia shows can help with puzzle completion.

• Learn repeat offenders. Over time you may recognize certain words appear in puzzle after puzzle. You’ll soon be able to match the clues to these repeat words.

• Familiarize yourself with multiple word meanings. Remember to think like a puzzle creator, who is probably trying to stump you. The word “flower” may not imply the blooming plant. It may represent something that “flows.”

• Take a break. Taking a few moments to step away from the puzzle before returning to it can clear the mind and make answers more apparent.

Crossword puzzles are a popular component of daily and weekly newspapers. They’re fun to fill out and boast a rich history.