The Differences Between an American Crossword and a British Crossword

Many professional cruciverbalists are already well-aware of the differences between an American crossword and a British crossword. An amateur cruciverbalist, however, might not even be aware that a difference exists. With My Crossword Maker, you can make either type of puzzle. While there are a number of similarities between them, there are two main differences: the grids and the clues.


American crosswords contain as few black squares as possible. Furthermore, the grid is fully “checked,” which means all of the letters in the puzzle intersect. This means it is theoretically possible to solve an entire grid by only answering the “Across” clues. For example, answering 6, 7, and 8 “Down” in this newspaper-style puzzle would give you the answer to 6, 14, and 17 across without even looking at the clue.

By contrast, British crosswords have more black squares. As many as half of the squares could be black in a British crossword.


In American crossword puzzles, a title and a theme is given, and then the clues can range from straight definitions to difficult trivia or clever wordplay. American crosswords will also use a lot of abbreviations. But because of how the American grid is formed, as mentioned above, you have a better guess of being able to guess the answer to a clue. For examples of scarce clues, many of the clues in this crossword contain no more than three to four words.

British crossword clues, on the other hand, tend to come in two varieties, also known as “Quick” and “Cryptic.”

In quick crosswords, no wordplay is involved. The clue gives a definition and the answer is the word that fits that definition. That doesn’t mean they’re not difficult! A word could be incredibly vague and still fit the definition. For example, the clue “Type of food” could be a lot of things for a 5-letter word, from “steak” to “apple” to “cakes.”

Cryptic crosswords are more common, and have become almost synonymous with “British crosswords.” In appearance, they are similar to quick puzzles. Cryptic crosswords, however, must feature some sort of wordplay. As Neville Forgarty, a famed crossword puzzle writer, states, cryptic puzzles “often comes in the form of a rebus, reversal, anagram, homophone, beheadment/curtailment, or perhaps a combination of these!”

Is one better than the other? Of course not! They’re just different. The first crossword puzzle was made by Arthur Wynne from Liverpool, which would seem to give the British crossword a leg up. However, he made it for the American newspaper, the New York World. Plus, the first crossword puzzle looks nothing like an American crossword or a British crossword.

The vast majority of My Crossword Maker’s visitors are American, but the United Kingdom comes in at a close third (Canada comes in second). With our newspaper-style crossword option in our crossword maker, you can make American or British crosswords. Make one of each and pick your favorite! If you’re brand new to one or the other, start off with a mini puzzle on a smaller grid, then make larger grids as you become more familiar with construction.

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