Crossword Puzzle

American-Style Crosswords

In typical themed American-style crosswords, the theme is created first, as a set of symmetric long Across answers will be needed around which the grid can be created. Since the grid will typically have 180-degree rotational symmetry, the answers will need to be also: thus a typical 15×15 square American puzzle might have two 15-letter entries and two 13-letter entries that could be arranged appropriately in the grid (e.g., one 15-letter entry in the third row, and the other symmetrically in the 13th row; one 13-letter entry starting in the first square of the 6th row and the other ending in the last square of the 10th row). The theme must not only be funny or interesting, but also internally consistent. On April 26, 2005, by Sarah Keller mentioned above, the five themed entries contained in the different parts of a tree: SQUAREROOT, TABLELEAF, WARDROBE TRUNK, BRAINSTEM, and BANK BRANCH. In this puzzle, CHARTER OAK would not be an appropriate entry, as all the other entries contain different parts of a tree, not the name of a kind of tree. Similarly, FAMILY TREE would not be appropriate unless it was used as a revealer for the theme (frequently clued with a phrase along the lines “…and a hint to…”). Given the existing entries, SEED MONEY would also be unacceptable, as all the other theme entries end in the part of a tree as opposed to beginning with it, though the puzzle could certainly be changed to have a mix of words in different positions.

Once a consistent, appropriate theme has been chosen, a grid is designed around that theme, following a set of basic principles:

Generally, most American puzzles are 15×15 squares; if another size, they typically have an odd number of rows and columns: e.g., 21×21 for “Sunday-size” puzzles; GAMES Magazine will accept 17×17 puzzles, Simon & Schuster accepts both 17×17 and 19×19 puzzles, and The New York Times requires diagramless puzzles to be 17×17. The odd number of squares on a side ensures that achieving symmetry is easier; with even-numbered puzzles, the central block of four squares makes constructing a symmetrical puzzle considerably more difficult.

The black squares must be arranged so as to:
(1) ensure there are no two-letter words.
(2) form 180-degree rotational symmetry (so that if the grid is turned upside-down, the pattern of black squares remains the same).
(3) ensure that every letter is checked (appears in both an Across and a Down word).
(4) not occupy too much of the puzzle (generally speaking, 16% of the puzzle is considered a rough limit for the percentage of black squares).
(5) ensure that the entire puzzle has “all-over interlock” that is, that the black squares do not “cut” the puzzle into separate sections; and.
(6) ensure that (generally) no non-theme entry is longer than any of the theme entries.
In addition, it is considered advisable to minimize the number of so-called “cheater” black squares, i.e., black squares whose removal would not change the word count of the puzzle but which make it easier to fill by shortening the length of the words therein.

The grid is then filled with suitable words, keeping in mind that.
(1) no word can be repeated in the grid (with the exception of prepositions or articles).
(2) profanity or graphic or “unpleasant” words are generally not allowed.
(3) obscurity is strongly discouraged in easy puzzles and should be kept to a minimum in more difficult puzzles, where two obscure words should never be allowed to cross (and, ideally, where the obscure word would be of interest to most solvers a genus of little known water bugs would not be a good choice).
(4) uncommon abbreviations and variant foreign spellings should be avoided, as well as the use of crosswordese (those words that no longer appear in common speech but that occur frequently in crosswords due to their favorable letter combinations, such as the Asian buffalo ANOA).
(5) in modern puzzles, pop figures and corporate and brand names are generally considered acceptable.
(6) no made-up words are permitted there should be a dictionary or other reference that can cite each entry if asked.

Modern constructors frequently (although not always) use software to speed the task. Several programs are available, of which the most widely accepted is Crossword Compiler. These programs, although they cannot create themes and cannot distinguish between “good” fill (fun, interesting words vs. dull obscurity), do speed up the process and will allow the constructor to realize if he or she has hit a dead end.

Crossword puzzle payments for standard 15×15 puzzles from the major outlets range from $50 (GAMES Magazine) to $500 (The New York Times) while payments for 21×21 puzzles range from $150 (Newsday) to $1,500 (The New York Times).

The compensation structure of crosswords generally entails authors selling all rights to their puzzles upon publication, and as a result, receiving no royalties from the republication of their work in books or other forms. This system has been criticized by American Values Club crossword editor Ben Tausig, among others.

Wikipedia ~ Crossword