What are the Different Types of Crossword Puzzles?

A Kaminsky

While most people are familiar with the standard black and white grid, crossword puzzles actually come in a number of permutations. The American-style grid usually has no more than one-sixth of its squares blacked out, and most of the letters will "check" each other. This means that getting most of the clues in one direction (across or down), will automatically supply the words for the other direction. British and Australian puzzles have a lattice-style grid, with the black squares placed so that only about half the letters are checked. There are also barred crossword puzzles, which have bold lines separating the squares, rather than black ones.

Most newspapers include a crossword puzzle.
Most newspapers include a crossword puzzle.

Crossword puzzles appeared in the United States in 1913. They became so popular that newspapers began using them, and word enthusiasts began creating them in huge numbers. They jumped the pond in 1924, with their first appearance in the United Kingdom. Nowadays, they are available in most newspapers, in some magazines and in puzzle books all over the world.

Standard crossword puzzles have a black and white grid.
Standard crossword puzzles have a black and white grid.

The most familiar variation on the puzzle is the standard "quick" clue. These are simple clues with one-word answers. Acronym clues are also used, as well as abbreviation clues and indirect clues.

The cryptic crossword, in which the clues themselves are little puzzles, are most common in the UK. Some crossword puzzles are even written so that every answer is in a foreign language. There are also double-clue crosswords. These are puzzles designed so that the puzzle worker can either go by a list of simple clues, or turn the page and use the cryptic clues, thereby increasing the puzzle's difficulty, but enabling either beginners or experts to work the same puzzle.

Cipher crossword puzzles have numbers in the clues, and the puzzler must break the cipher code to read the clues and solve the puzzle. One diabolical twist on them is the UK variation called a diagramless puzzle. These puzzles involve getting all the clues answered, and then placing them on the puzzle grid so that the answers check each other properly.

A new puzzle similar to the crossword is the wildly popular Sudoku. This involves placing the digits 1 through 9 in a grid in such a way that every row, and every 3-by-3 square, contains each of the numbers, with no repetition. As long as humans like to play with words, crossword puzzles will, no doubt, have a place in the puzzler's favorites list.

Pencils are used for crossword puzzles because mistakes can be easily erased.
Pencils are used for crossword puzzles because mistakes can be easily erased.

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Discussion Comments


Whenever we go on a trip, we always take a puzzle book along with us. If I work on a crossword puzzle, I always have to start out with those that are considered easy.

Even then, I am not very good at them. I usually find myself getting frustrated after a short time and looking at the back of the book for an answer that might help me.

Even though I enjoy the challenge of a good puzzle, I would rather work on Sudoku than struggle with a crossword puzzle.


One of the main reasons my grandma got the daily newspaper was so she could work on the crossword puzzle.

I think this is something where you definitely get better with time and a lot of practice. When I look at those puzzles, I may only know one, or possibly two, of the answers.

Everything else looks like a foreign language to me. Many years ago, they didn't have use of the internet to help them if they were stuck.

If my grandma didn't complete the puzzle in one day, she would have to wait until the next day to see what the answers were.

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