Scrabble vs. Crossword: Similarities and Differences

To the untrained eye, the games of Scrabble and Crossword seem like worlds apart. One is generally a multiplayer game, while the other is just something you’d play by yourself– even the game mechanics of finding words in Scrabble seems vastly different from Crossword. So what could they possibly have in common? Well, quite a few actually! But just like their similarities, they also have their differences.

Scrabble and Crossword: When did it all begin?

Before tackling the similarities and differences that these two games have, it’s important to see where they come from. After all, this will give you an idea as to where such game characteristics originated.



Out of the two games, Crossword was actually developed first in 19th century England, where it was treated as more of a kid’s game. It was typically seen in children’s books and was used as a word exercise to encourage kids to practice their vocabulary. However, it wasn’t until the game of Crossword reached American soil that it truly took off.

Arthur Wynne, a British journalist, introduced this fun word game to the Americans after he had the first-ever puzzle published in the New York World in 1913. Back then, though, the game didn’t feature the typical squares that people are used to seeing nowadays, instead, it had diamonds. Nevertheless, the game of Crossword boomed in America where it became less of a children’s game and more of a serious adult’s pastime. Now, people see crossword puzzles in the daily newspapers and even have mobile apps to allow for more accessibility.


Would you believe it if you found out that Scrabble actually used to be called “Criss Cross”? Well, it’s true! In 1939, an architect by the name of Alfred M. Butts invented the game Criss Cross which he derived from the games of anagrams, and yes, Crossword.

However, nearly a decade later, James Brunot sought to redesign the game and market it to a larger audience, hence, it was renamed Scrabble. The first copies of the game were then sold in Great Britain in 1954, and since then, it has been a house favorite, favored by many around the world.

Similarities and Differences?

Now that it has been established that Scrabble was actually made with Crossword puzzles in mind, it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise to find out that the two games have much in common.

To know more about their similarities and differences, here’s a breakdown of each game’s characteristics.


1. Use of “across” and “down”

One noticeable characteristic of Crossword is the use of “across” and “down.” In Crossword, you have a different set of questions per direction, and this will go on until the entire board is filled with your answers. The same can be said for Scrabble where a player has the option to lay down words either horizontally or vertically and form a word from there.

2. Discovering words using clues

Now, while the “clues” per se might differ in both games, the principle stays the same. Crossword provides you clues based on the question of the statement given per number, while in Scrabble, hints can be seen through studying the board and figuring out word combinations based on the letters already there. And if you think about it, Crossword also has that mechanic. When you are stumped on a certain number, you can check to see if other boxes have already been filled out with other answers. This gives you a clue on how to solve the remaining numbers.

3. The use of squares in the game

This might seem like a meaningless similarity, but both games make use of squares when doing a play-through. Come to think about it, squares also play a big part in the game. In Crossword, there are square blocks that block off certain areas in the puzzle, while in Scrabble, the squares contain added points and multipliers to up your score.

4. Anagrams

Both games actually make use of anagrams up to a certain point. This can be seen clearer in Scrabble where the letters you get are randomized and it’s up to you to find word combinations from those letters, but some variations of Crossword use anagrams as clues to solve the puzzle. In a sense, even a classic game of Crossword can be considered an anagram when you use the leftover letters on the puzzle as clues to figure out the answer to other questions. You can learn more about anagrams here.

Though the game of Scrabble and Crossword may not have a lot in common, the similarities are still there and could appeal to those looking for some variety in their game playing.


1. Number of players per game

Possibly the biggest difference between these two games is that Crossword is a largely single-player game that people can enjoy with their own company, whereas Scrabble needs the participation of two or more players. Sure, mobile apps have allowed these games to be enjoyed multiplayer or single-player, but their basic premise still stands.

2. Point system

There is no losing in Crossword since you essentially just play by yourself. When you do the puzzles seen in the daily paper, there is no concept of winning or losing the game–it’s just a matter of whether or not you are able to complete the puzzle. While that may technically constitute a “win”, you could simply Google the answer to any questions you might not know of.

The same cannot be said for Scrabble where there is no Googling your way to victory. It’s all about wit and skill, and how well you are able to defeat your other opponents. In the game of Scrabble, there is always a winner–or a draw. However, you can use a word finder to improve your chance of winning and maybe read some tips to score higher in Scrabble.

3. Types of clues

It was mentioned previously that a similarity both have is the use of “clues,” but that in itself could also be a difference. In Crossword, clues come in the form of questions or statements, as opposed to Scrabble where clues are simply the letters on the board and on your rack, and it is up to you to form a word based on the letters available to you.

4. Ease of playing

Generally speaking, Crossword is a more accessible game to play, not only is it because it’s a single-player game, but also because you don’t need any other special equipment to be able to play it. Simply have a daily newspaper and you’re good to go. If reading the news isn’t for you, then there are tons of offline puzzles available for download.

Scrabble, on the other hand, needs a lot of equipment, especially if you’re playing in person. Not only that, but you’ll need opponents to defeat! When jumping to the mobile version of the game, you’ll need internet access and most will require you to wait for the person you’re playing against to make a move– that could take hours, or even days!

5. Word knowledge

Lastly, in Crossword, simply knowing various different trivial and logical questions could get you through a game, but Scrabble has lots of obscure words, that may not even be words, that you have to take into consideration. The word choices are so vast that there are dedicated Scrabble dictionaries to tell you whether the word you thought of is eligible of not.

Take your pick

One might ask why even bother knowing these games’ similarities and differences. Well, that’s for you to decide. You may want to read some tips on solving crossword puzzles as well.

Many people might want to know because they want to discover other games that emulate characteristics of the one they are currently playing. If you’re happy playing Crossword but want to switch it up a bit, wouldn’t you want to know other games out there just like it?

Aside from searching for a new game to play, people might simply just be curious to know if there are any similarities between these timeless classics, especially after finding out how interconnected these two games are. So just take your pick and find out which one is perfect for you!

Published on 09 Dec 2022
Author: Marinel

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