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The evolution of word puzzle games: from Crosswords to Smartle

7 Jul 2023

The first known crossword puzzle, as we know it today, was created by British journalist Arthur Wynne and was published in the "New York World" newspaper on December 21, 1913. Wynne's puzzle was called a "word-cross" and featured a diamond-shaped grid with simple word clues.

The origin of the word "crossword" itself is quite funny. When the first crossword puzzle was created it was initially called a "word-cross puzzle". However, due to a typesetting error, the name was mistakenly reversed to "crossword puzzle" in a publication. This accidental switch became so popular that it stuck, and the term "crossword puzzle" has been used ever since. A great example of how a simple mistake can lead to a lasting and iconic name for a game.

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The original crossword puzzle gained popularity very quickly, and soon other newspapers began publishing their own daily word puzzles. In the 1920s, crossword puzzles became a widespread phenomenon, captivating the public's interest. The "New York Times" began publishing crosswords in 1942, further contributing to their popularity and establishing them as a staple in newspapers worldwide.

Several decades later at the late January 2022 New York Times purchased Wordle, a popular online 5 letter word-guessing game created by an indie developer.

How was such a great leap possible?

As the popularity of wordsearch and crossword puzzles grew, variations and adaptations of word puzzle games emerged. Word search puzzles, where players search for hidden words in a grid of letters, gained popularity in the mid-20th century. Anagrams, where players rearrange letters to form new words, also became a popular word game format. All of this was of course offline.

With the advancement of technology, word puzzle games underwent a significant transformation. From something that could be found only in offline newspapers and magazines crossword and wordsearch puzzles became a fully online experience. Digital platforms allowed for the creation of interactive puzzles with real-time feedback, providing a more immersive and engaging experience for players.

Of course we can’t have this article without mentioning Smartle - one of the most recent and exciting developments in word search puzzles. Smartle represents a new generation of word puzzles that combines the challenge of word search games with strategic thinking. In Smartle, players rearrange letters on a grid to find multiple words simultaneously, offering a unique and dynamic gameplay experience. With its leaderboard and time challenges, Smartle has captured the attention of free word search puzzle games enthusiasts around the world.

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