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A Guide to Creating Crossword Puzzles

Crossword puzzles are enjoyable and keeps the mind sharp. These are excellent educational tools, aiding students to connect concepts with vocabulary. Some also relish making crosswords just as well as solving one. Making a crossword puzzle can be quite simple, or very involved, depending on the maker’s interest level.

Puzzle making can have three major considerations: laying the basics; creating clues; and conforming to norms.

Laying the basics is about the following:

Understanding Crosswords

Puzzle grid size must comply with specific dimensions. For casual puzzles, though, the maker can adopt whatever size he wants. The creator can manually do a puzzle to the size he fancies, but most online puzzle makers restrict grid size to a specified range.

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It is usual to prepare a word list based on an underlying theme. The theme (or clue referring to the theme) is usually the puzzle’s title.

3. Once the words are laid out on the grid, unused squares are blacked-off. US convention dictates there should be no “hanging words”, or words that do not connect to other words; UK crosswords, however, allow it. There are no spaces between words for an answer to a clue that requires a phrase. There is no distinction between capitals or small case, since writing crossword answers are normally done in capital letters. Punctuation marks are also not part of crossword puzzles. Most online puzzle creators automatically lay out the words. All the user has to do is to specify puzzle size and input the list of words and clues.

Puzzle numbering is done starting from the upper left corner, identifying horizontal words with an “A” post-fix and “D” for vertical words. Online software can simplify he effort.

5. Create a “copy” of the puzzle with another having a numbered grid sans the letters (for use of the solver later on). The copy containing numbers and letters acts as the “answer key” and is used for reference in creating clues.

Creating clues relates to the following:The following relates to creating clues:

1. Note down the straight-forward clues (easiest to write and solve). Educational or simple puzzles usually have quick clues exclusively while challenging “professional” puzzles adopt the reverse.

2. Increase the challenge a notch more with indirect clues that use metaphors or lateral thinking.

Word play or cryptic puzzles usually involve multiple levels of puzzling out.

4. Number clues in accordance to their placement in the puzzle. Across clues and down clues are grouped separately, both sorted in ascending numerical order.

The following is involved when conforming to norms (making the crossword official):

Standards published by Simon and Schuster provide the official guide to professional crossword size.

A mirror image is produced relative to the arrangement of the blacked-out spaces on the grid when the diagram is flipped 180 degrees.

Two-letter words are a “no-no”; three-letter ones sparingly.

4. As a rule, puzzle words must be referenced, i.e., found in a dictionary, atlas, literary work, textbook, almanac, etc. (there are some exceptions to the rule but should be avoided if possible).

5. Certain themes may give some flexibility but the puzzle maker must observe one-time use of words.

6. Great puzzles make the longest words the most closely tied words (or phrases) to the theme of a themed puzzle.