New York Times crossword puzzle constructor, David Kwong, shows us how he makes a crossword puzzle. Visit
Become a Cruciverbalist
01. Enjoy doing crosswords. The initial point is a love of crosswords and a thrill at doing them yourself. Knowing the ins and outs of crossword puzzle solving is an important part of becoming a cruciverbalist because it helps you to understand what works and does not work in a crossword, and what makes the challenge more interesting. It is important to be across different styles of crossword puzzles too, including plain and easy styles, large styles, and cryptic crosswords. Other word puzzle knowledge is a bonus because it’s very likely that if you are employed to create crosswords, you’ll also be expected to create other types of word puzzles.
- Know how to spot easy to very challenging word puzzles. You should be able to work this out without being told by the puzzle creator.
- Read How to be good at crosswords, How to finish a crossword puzzle, and How to solve a cryptic crossword puzzle for more help.
02. Expand your vocabulary. You may already have an incredibly wide range of vocabulary but even then, it is important to keep expanding it.
- Read How to build your vocabulary and Enrich Your English Language Vocabulary for lots of ideas on the fun ways you can use to expand your vocabulary.
03. Use word games to increase your flexibility with words and to learn how to link words together. There is a range of good games that use words in an interlocking way but the most famous one is Scrabble™. Playing Scrabble™ will give you a lot of ideas on how to intersect words for the best value, including using the trickier letters such as X, Q, and Z.
- Other word games include ones in which the last letter of a sentence or word has to be taken to create the next sentence or word, etc. A lot of car and camping games have this structure.
- * Brush up on your spelling. You must be a good speller to produce crossword puzzles, as mistakes can spoil the whole puzzle. Also, if you’re a speaker of British English living in the USA, or vice versa, be very careful to use the right English spellings depending on the audience targeted.
04. Learn the basic crossword construction rules. These help to temper your enthusiasm to add words willy nilly to a puzzle without aesthetic or challenging effect. The rules behind the creation of crosswords will inform your methodology and word usage. For crossword puzzles in the United States, the rules are based on Simon and Schuster, and some of the basics are as follows:
- Fit the puzzle into one of five sizes of the grid: 15×15, 17×17, 19×19, 21×21, and 23×23.
- Note that some publications will accept 13×13, but the standard size is considered to be 15×15, so get comfortable with that one first.
- Diagonal symmetry is required for the black squares for example, black squares in one top corner must reflect black squares in the bottom diagonal corner. Horizontal symmetry is usually not accepted. Look at existing crossword puzzles to see what is achieved by current crossword generators.
- Do not use two-letter words as they’re not permitted. Three letter words should be used sparingly as they’re not particularly challenging.
- Interlock every letter square as part of both an Across and a Down word; letters that are not interlocked are forbidden.
- Don’t use words more than once in the same crossword.
05.Start practicing with a grid. Print off a number of blank grids (you can either make your own on a program like Word or look for free grids online) to practice adding words to. In doing so, select one of the grid sizes suggested above, bearing in mind that the most commonly purchased crosswords for newspapers and magazines will be 15×15 grids. Start by deciding a theme or idea for your crossword puzzle and preparing a list of all the relevant theme words you think would be appropriate for it. Be fully aware that it usually takes several hours to produce a quality crossword puzzle, so allow yourself a good space of time for each practice session.
- Words are placed horizontally and vertically. Start placing your theme or listed words on the grid to see how they fit in. If you find any problems, such as the creation of 2 letter words, etc., then continue rearranging until words fit more appropriately.
- Add black squares that cover the words already added. Keep in mind the symmetry of black squares and be aware that some publishers limit the amount of black squares that can be used in a crossword puzzle. Sam Bellotto recommends that having around one-sixth of black squares is appropriate.
- Once you’ve added the words on your list, return and fill in the rest of the spaces as appropriate using appropriate words and phrases, and appropriate black squares. Make adjustments to the crossword puzzle as needed as you go, keeping the symmetry in place.
- Keep practicing because this is a skill that requires lots of practice, and much of your learning will occur by error. Don’t be put off, just keep trying.
06. Learn how to generate clues. The style of the clues will depend on the type of crossword, such as whether it’s straightforward or cryptic, easy or challenging, and you’ll need to be across each type of clue presentation. Every word used in the crossword must be referenced by using standard dictionaries, atlases, or encyclopedias or other trusted print sources. There is a little more space for creativity in theme crosswords, which carry a theme throughout the whole range of clues, such as focusing on animals, circus life, a day at the beach, etc. The important thing about clues is that they must be interesting and as original as possible. If you plan on doing this for a career, it is vital to prove that you have the ability to prepare clever and interesting clues.
- Sam Bellotto recommends that one-third of clues be straightforward (for example, “great cat” for “tiger”), one-third clever (for example, “jungle stalker” for “tiger”), and the remaining third are what are known as “fill-ins”, such as “of the” for “War Roses”.
- Read How to make an educational crossword puzzle and How to create a biblical crossword for kids for more ideas on “themed” approaches.
07. Extend your word game range. As well as crosswords, try to make other word puzzles either to stretch your capacity for fun, or to increase your utility to an employer or syndicate employing your skills. Word games that can be equally popular include such games as: anagrams, hidden word search, jumblers, etc. If you like numbers, try making number puzzles too, such as sudokus.
- Be sure to learn the rules behind each type of word puzzle. Doing them is very different from making them, even though you do need to experience of trying them yourself.
08. Start job hunting or showcasing your crossword talent. If you want to develop crosswords for a career, create a portfolio and talk to newspaper and puzzle syndicates. If you’re just keen to show off your new talent, why not start a crossword blog or website? There are many ways you can share your crosswords with friends, family, and the greater world if you’d like to do it just for fun.
- Be aware that many crosswords are purchased via syndicates because of the intensity of the work involved in creating them and many newspapers and magazines cannot afford to keep a crossword creator member of staff. However, where you can become a crossword generator as part of the newspaper staff, it is probable that you will be expected to compile more than the daily crossword and that you’ll also be expected to compile special crosswords features for holiday events, for vacation time, and a range of other word puzzles.
*If you decide to create a crossword blog or website, be sure to maintain it regularly with crosswords so that your readers keep coming back for more.
- Do the crossword puzzles every day in the newspaper, magazines, and on websites.
- When building a crossword, try to favor more interesting words over obscure ones.
- While doing crosswords daily is said to aid the brain, it’s the process of learning how to do crosswords that actually fires the brain and inspires creativity rather than routine solving which soon becomes too easy. Keep challenging yourself by creating harder crosswords and by learning how to do harder ones too.
- Spend some time talking to existing professional crossword makers online. There are various forums to meet up in, do a Google search, and look for sites like Cruciverb which have lots of professional crossword puzzle makers regularly stopping in to talk and inspire others.
- There is a lot of software that can help you to find words for crosswords quickly, as well as generate ideas. Indeed, in this day and age, expert knowledge of the use of software to generate crosswords is a useful and desirable skill that will set you apart from people lacking this ability.
- Sam Bellotto recommends avoiding the use of trademarks in crosswords because he believes the advertisers don’t need free advertising!
Source – Website
How to Finish a Crossword Puzzle – Website
How to Expand Your Vocabulary – Website
How to Solve a Cryptic Crossword – Website