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Word Search vs. Crossword: Similarities and Differences!

Last Updated on January 7, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Word Search vs Crossword

Over the years, I have enjoyed doing Word Search and Crossword puzzles. While I have never had to choose between them, I have often wondered which one I would choose if I was forced to. It is a tough choice – trust me on that! This got me thinking about how Word Search and Crossword puzzles compare and what the most obvious and not so obvious similarities and differences are. Of course, a little investigative work followed, and I would love to share my findings with you.

Word Search vs. Crossword

They are word puzzles.Each comes from a different time era (history).
Both improve spelling & vocab.Word Search is visual, whereas Crossword is mental.
Both center around a list of words that must be “found”.Word Search involves finding a provided word, whereas Crossword involves guessing/figuring out the word.
Both offer similar benefits.

While both are word puzzles and share other similarities, they have just enough differences to set them apart from each other. I still can’t decide which of these puzzles would be better suited to me, if I had to choose, but I do find the similarities and differences quite interesting. If you would like to take a closer look at each of them, simply read on. Below I unpack each of the differences and similarities a bit more.

What Makes Crossword and Word Search Similar

If you enjoy doing both Word Search and crosswords, you might already know what makes these two puzzles similar. If you are new to the world of word puzzles, you might not have a clear idea and this could provide you with the clarity that you need. Either way, let us take a look at the similarities between Word Search and Crossword puzzles

Both Word Searches & Crosswords are Word Puzzles.

Illustration of Word search puzzle

By definition (according to Oxford dictionary), a word puzzle is “a puzzle consisting of letters arranged in a grid, containing several hidden words written in any direction”. While a Crossword puzzle does not already have the words written on the grid, the general concept and definition are the same. 

Both Crossword and Word Search puzzles are based on words, and so it can be concluded that both Word Search puzzles and Crossword puzzles are word puzzles.

Both Word Searches & Crosswords Improve Spelling and Vocabulary.

If you have ever attended a language school, you might have been presented with a Word Search or crossword puzzle to do at some point. These are considered good puzzles for learning new words, which brings us to the topic of spelling and vocabulary. Can doing Crossword puzzles or Word Search puzzles improve a person’s spelling and vocabulary? The good news is that both of these word puzzles can make you a “wordsmith” if done regularly.

When you are doing a Word Search, you are exposing yourself to new words and also learning to recognize how certain words are spelled. Every time you check the grid and then reference the list again, you are creating a memory of how that new word is spelled. This can only lead to improving your spelling and vocabulary. For kids, Word Search is a wonderful way to grow the vocab and spruce up on spelling skills. 

Much the same, Crossword puzzles are designed to teach people new words either by looking them up or asking for advice from a friend. Spelling is something that will naturally improve because if you get the word right but the spelling wrong, the grid just won’t work out in the end. Because Crossword puzzles can be quite complex, many people learn a new word or phrase every time they complete a puzzle. 

Both Word Searches & Crosswords Center around a List of Words that Must be Found.

One of the biggest similarities of the puzzles is that they revolve around words. But it’s more than that. Both games are centered on a list of words, and the gameplay is fairly similar too. When you solve a Word Search, you are looking for a list of words on the grid. Much the same, Crossword puzzles require you to insert a list of words on the grid. That being said, both puzzles are based on a list of words…and a grid. 

List of words

Word Search and Crosswords Have Similar Benefits.

Let’s talk about the benefits for a bit. Everything in life is done for the benefits – at least that’s the norm. While Crossword puzzles and Word Search puzzles are fun, that is not what they are all about. In fact, they are about far more than that. 

In terms of similarities of benefits, both Word Search and Crosswords offer the following: de-stressing and relaxation time, boosts brain activity which can keep mental degradation at bay, improves spelling and vocab, and gets you thinking out of the box. 

When sitting down to a Word Search or Crossword puzzle, you are taking time out from your daily chores and responsibilities, you are looking away from the many screens in your life, and you are focusing on doing something that is 100% for you. This is a benefit that both puzzles share.

What Sets Crossword and Word Search Apart

Is it possible for puzzles that have so many similarities to also be so different? As it turns out, yes, it is. Word Search and Crossword puzzles have a lot in common, yet they still are not the same. Why is that? Of course, Word Search and Crossword puzzles have a lot of differences too, and it is those differences that set the two puzzles apart. Some of these include the following: 

Word Search and Crossword Puzzles are from Different Time Eras.

Sometimes when a game was invented can be very telling as to why it is similar to other games. Games that originate from the same time era very often have a lot in common – whether it is appearance, gameplay, or the actual concept and objective of the game/puzzle. 

Due to the similarities between the two-word puzzles, you might think that they became popular at similar times, but they really did not. Word Search puzzles only really made their debut in 1968, whereas Crossword puzzles have been around for far longer. Crossword puzzles were invented by Arthur Wynne in 1913. They come from different time eras – interesting, right?

Word Search Puzzles are Visual, Whereas Crossword Puzzles are Mental.

Are Word Searches and Crosswords made equal when it comes to the demands that they make on mental capacity? When you do a Word Search puzzle, you are focusing on the visual aspects of the grid and also visually seeking out patterns on the grid. This is not really the case with Crossword puzzles. With Crossword puzzles, it is quite different. While the grid is used and some patterns do come into play, it is the actual thinking and problem solving that comes into play to figure what the implied word or phrase is.

Visual vs mental

Therefore, Crosswords are thinking games, whereas Word Searches are visual games.

Word Search Involves Finding a Provided Word, Whereas Crossword Involves Guessing/Figuring Out the Word.

What is actually done to solve a Crossword puzzle and a Word Search puzzle is quite different. If someone were to watch you doing a Word Search and a Crossword, they might think that it looks the same, whereas it is actually not the same when it comes down to the finer details. 

When you are puzzling over a Word Search, all the words that you are looking for are already there on the grid. When you are puzzling over a crossword, you are trying to figure out what the words are, so that you can place them on the grid. That being said, it is easy to say that Crosswords are more complex than Word Searches.

Again, it is interesting to note that Word Search puzzles demand your visual attention and focus mainly on a person’s ability to identify patterns. 

Crosswords, on the other hand, give you clues so that you can work out the answer. Every answer that you figure out and fill into the grid provides more clues as to what the other answers are, as some new letters are added to the grid. Some of the clues can be quite misleading, which leads to puzzlers second-guessing themselves or trying to read the clue from different “angles” or perspectives. Crosswords put your lexical memory and creative thinking processes into gear and get them working. 

Choose Both! 

While Crossword puzzles and Word Search puzzles have viable differences and similarities to consider, I don’t feel that anyone needs to choose between them. Both have great elements of entertainment and education, and if you are able to add both to your life, I strongly recommend it!

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.