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Why Are Crosswords So Popular?

One question that is often asked is why are crosswords so popular? The same question is also applied to the other famous word puzzle, the wordsearch, and also to the relative newcomer on the block in the world of logic puzzles (not number puzzles!) - the sudoku puzzle.

As with any very popular puzzle, the main criterion seems to be that the rules are extremely simple. In a wordsearch the rules are: find these words in the grid. In a crossword the rules are: write the answers to the clues in the grid. With a sudoku, the rules are: place the numbers 1 - 9 once in each row, column and box. It certainly seems the case that for a game to be popular, the rules need to be simple enough to explain in just one sentence.

In contrast, many great puzzle types that are less popular have more complicated rules, often requiring several sentences to explain. Whilst they may also be great puzzles and have a lot of depth to them, they usually take quite a bit of solving to get used to, and possibly to start to enjoy. In other words, the more instructions a puzzle has the less immediately accessible it is. And - particularly in a world of immediacy where people often want to be able to do things right now - the very simple rules of a crossword are heavily in its favour.

The second main reason people cite for the popularity of a crossword is that every puzzle is the same, but different. The mechanics are the same, but unless you solve the same crossword, you are getting a different challenge each time: some clues you will find easy, others harder, and some you might not know the answer to, and then you get the chance to look up the answer and potentially learn a new word or piece of vocabulary. Each crossword you solve presents a different challenge in a way, critics contend, a new wordsearch or sudoku puzzle simply doesn't.

So crossword puzzles use your brain and are also educational. And if they have just the right level of challenge, then they are very satisfying puzzles to solve too. All of this seems to add up to a good explanation of why the crossword puzzle is so popular.

The other reason is, of course, availability: for a long time now virtually every publication such as a newspaper has carried a crossword daily, so many people have as part of their routine each day the solving of the crossword in the newspaper of their choice. The quick crossword is the most popular puzzle of course, by number of solvers, but the cryptic crossword is also a popular choice and has many aficionados. It will never be as popular as the quick crossword for the reasons alluded to in the introductory section of this article: there are many clue types that people will need to get used to, akin to there being many rules, and this puts a lot of people off as the first few puzzles you tackle can be a real struggle to solve.

Why do you enjoy crosswords so much - perhaps you can shed some light on why you think crosswords are so popular in the comments section below.
Date written: 08 Apr 2015

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