6 Different Types of Crossword Puzzles – Do You Know Them All?

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Who would have thought that there are so many different types of crossword puzzles. In this article, you'll find some you might be familiar with, but definitely some you haven't heard of...

Let's check it out...


American-Style Grid

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The grid for American-style crosswords will often have 180- or 90-degree rotational symmetry, which means that the grid can be turned and will still look the same. It is typically square and 15x15 in size, although there are some that can be 17x17, 19x19, and even 21x21.

In general, American-style crossword puzzles are written with a specific theme in mind, which is helpful for people who are trying to complete the puzzle and need a little additional help.

The grid is composed of black and white squares. The black squares are placed to block any letters from being put in that particular location. Letters can only be placed in the white squares. All of the words that are either Across or Down have a small number in the first white square denoting where the person completing the crossword puzzle will start.

The black squares on this type of crossword are arranged so that there aren’t any two-letter words, that every letter appears in both a Down and Across word, and won’t take up too much space in the puzzle. Additionally, words that do not match the theme of the puzzle shouldn’t be longer than the words that do fit in the theme.

No words on the grid may be repeated unless they are an article or a preposition. Generally speaking, graphic words and profanity aren’t allowed, and words shouldn’t be too obscure or rely on uncommon spellings or abbreviations.

Since all letters have to fit in both a Down and Across word, creating this style of crossword puzzle is generally accepted to be fairly difficult. In fact, many people rely on software to make the task a little bit easier. While this can result in these crosswords featuring similar words as other options, this is a great way for people to find missing words that can be used to fill in a space.

Another rule that these crossword puzzles must follow is that there can’t be any unchecked squares. This means that they either need to be blacked out and not used or left white so that they can be filled in with a letter.

Clues are provided to help users fill in the grid, but the clues often include turned phrases and obscure hints, which can make advanced crosswords very difficult to complete. However, it’s important to note that there are all different levels of crosswords for users to complete. Some are designed to be much easier, and the clues will be more basic.

Because the letters have to be used in Down and Across words, it’s very common for these traditional crossword puzzles to have words that are the same from puzzle to puzzle.


British or South African-Style Grid

British-style crossword puzzles are very similar to American-style crossword puzzles, but they do have one major difference. Unlike American crossword puzzles where every letter must be used in both a Down and in an Across word, British crossword puzzles do not have this limitation.

This means that these words can be used with “hanging” letters that aren’t used in two words at one time. Not only does this result in a grid that isn’t always rotational, such as American crossword grids, but it means that a wider variety of words and clues can be used.

It is normal for the words used to be much more interesting as there isn’t the constraint of having to have all of the letters on the words intersect with each other. Even the words used in themed crosswords tend to be more accessible and less obscure.

Black boxes are still placed in the puzzle to block a player from putting a letter there, and players still rely on clues to help them fill in where they need to put letters, but the clues are not generally as tricky as with American crosswords.

Because the clues are more straightforward and because a wider variety of words can commonly be used, these crosswords tend to be a little easier for some people to complete.


Cryptic

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These crosswords feature the same design as British-style crossword puzzles, but tend to be a little bit more challenging. Generally speaking, these clues contain both straightforward, as well as more cryptic, information in the same clue, which can work for or against a player.

Because the player will feel confident in the answer that they have come up with when it works with both the cryptic and straightforward clue, this game appeals to many people. It is important for players to learn how to decide what part of the clue is the cryptic part, and what part is more straightforward.

Because these crossword puzzles are played on British-style instead of American-style grids, there is a much wider variety of words that can be used, which means that players can really think outside of the box. These games would be difficult to create and to play if they were designed on the stricter American-style grids.

These crosswords were first developed in the UK and have been around for almost a century. They were designed to include wordplay, classical allusions, and anagrams, but now they tend more to include modern cryptic clues.

It’s common for UK newspapers to run both a cryptic and a traditional crossword side-by-side. Additionally, these crosswords are fairly common in Canada and in Australia, although they are not nearly as popular in the US.

The tricky part of completing a cryptic crossword is first understanding how the clues work together. The clue tends to provide the answer to the user, but only if it is read in the correct way. The first reading, or the “surface” reading, generally is used as a distraction and doesn’t provide any information to the actual answer of the clue.

The clues rely on wordplay and on definition for users to find out the answer of the clue. The definition provides the answer and is generally similar to a clue that would be found in a traditional crossword, while the cryptic part of the clue is more difficult to determine.

While mostly an English-language crossword, cryptic crosswords are popular in Israel, Poland, and in Germany.


Barred Grid

This is a popular variant of the traditional crossword and uses bold lines in place of shaded squares to separate the answers on the grid. While some people may think that this doesn’t play a huge role in changing the overall design of the crossword, it actually can make it much more difficult to create and to solve.

Since there aren’t any shaded blocks in this type of crossword puzzle, there aren’t any main breaks between the words except for the darker shading. This can be visually difficult for some users to see and to complete.

One interesting feature of this type of crossword is that, sometimes, the letters are left hanging, which means that they are used in only Down or Across words, but aren’t used in both. This is more similar to British grids.


Cipher

The cipher crossword is a popular, but tricky, variation of the cryptic crossword. These crosswords don’t just require the person completing them to be able to find the answer to a certain clue, but often to solve a clue to find the answer.

Because the answers to a cipher crossword aren’t as straightforward as they are in other types of crosswords, this type can be more difficult and take longer to answer. Because of this, cipher crosswords aren’t nearly as common as other types of crosswords.

Additionally, these crosswords are much harder for the average person to try to create, as they require not only knowledge of how the letters can fit together to make words, but also how to create various clues that will be difficult to unravel.

Users need to determine the cipher used to determine the answer to the clues, which can be difficult for some people to do easily, especially when the cipher is unclear or obscure.


Thematic

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Thematic crosswords are shaped in various designs, which really helps them to stand out from traditional square or rectangular crossword puzzles. They are often designed for younger children, as the shape of them can make them very appealing to young users; however, there are some that are designed specifically for older users, as well.

Not only do these crosswords have to fit into a specific shape, but they still need to follow the rules of traditional crossword puzzles. This means that the words need to connect correctly. Due to the design of the shape, as well as the fact that the letters need to connect with each other as they do in a traditional crossword puzzle, these tend to be very difficult for someone to make.

However, due to the shape of thematic crosswords, they generally aren’t able to rotate 90 or 180 degrees. This can make creating these puzzles a little bit easier. The shape of these crossword puzzles can vary from animals, plants, and other natural items, to circles and inanimate objects.