Nonograms History: Here’s Everything You Wanted to Know About Them

Picture grid puzzles like nonograms have been around for ages. These are amongst those games that have the most number of names around the world, and also aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Nonograms are fascinating crosswords that employ logic, creativity as well as erudition to systematically fill grids based on the provided clues. The right type of nonogram has only one unique solution, which is achieved without guesswork. Today, these have become more popular, accessible, and also intuitive. From the days of paper-pen puzzling to now playing the game conveniently on your phone – nonograms have traveled a long way. And you won’t be a true nonogram enthusiast if you don’t know where it came from. So, let’s take you in the past and tell you how it all started.

One game, different names

As the game evolved, so did the terminologies. With time, and as it spread to different parts of the world, nonograms acquired several names. The common ones include Paint-by-Numbers, Cross Numbers, Griddlers, Picross, Hanjie, CrossPix, Paint Logic, Pic-a-Pix, Pixel Puzzles, and Picture Cross.

Japanese invention

It was in 1987 that a Japanese graphics editor, Non Ishida, took part in a competition at Tokyo to display her idea of designing a grid picture with the help of on-and-off skyscraper lights. She won the contest, and that’s when she decided to turn the concept into real-life paper puzzles. The following year, i.e., in 1988, she got her “Window Art Puzzles” published. Some people credit Tetsuya Nishio, another professional Japanese puzzler, for the invention of nonograms. However, he came out with a very similar puzzle in the same year but for a different magazine and somewhat a distinctive concept.


James Dalgety, one of the world’s leading metagrobologists, in 1990, was introduced to these puzzles by Non Ishida and he found these very exciting. So, he helped her in getting these out of Japan and into the United Kingdom, in short, paving a glorious way for commercializing the puzzles throughout the world. He was the one who renamed her puzzles as Nonograms (“Nono” from Non and “-Gram” from Diagram). He was successful in convincing The Sunday Telegraph to publish these puzzles on a trial basis. But, after achieving quite a significant response, nonograms became a weekly affair. However, it was in 1995 that nonograms went back to Japan, and Manich regularly started publishing the cross number puzzles.

Book of nonograms

In 1993, Non Ishida came out with her very own book of nonograms in Japan, and these eventually took off in the United States, South Africa, and many other places. By 1996, her collaboration with James Dalgety was ceased, and she exclusively started using the name “Nonogram” for her designs. This led to a competition in 1996 by The Sunday Telegraph to choose another name for their puzzle. That’s when the term “Griddler” was born.


When in 1995, plastic puzzle toys started incorporating the game into their framework, the term “Paint-by-Numbers” came to use. Nintendo also followed the fad and released their “Picross” puzzles, including Mario’s Picross. Today, the cross numbers puzzles have garnered unprecedented popularity, and players take pleasure in solving these.

If you’re stunned by the history of nonograms, further satisfy your craving by trying out the game yourself. So, go ahead and install the cross numbers mobile app right away.