Crossword puzzles have been enjoyed for hundreds of years - since the early 1900’s in fact. Some enthusiasts believe that the crossword puzzle has been around even longer than that and simply have not been properly documented. Whichever the case may be, it is no secret that these puzzles have become a favorite pastime for millions of people all over the globe. Some crossword fanatics may even wish to learn how to create their own crossword puzzles for a variety of reasons, including personal usage, unique party games, or even to supplement their income by submitting their creations to various publications. Whatever your reason is for wanting to learn how to create your own crossword puzzle, here are some tips to teach you how the pro’s do it!
The first thing you need to figure out when you decide to make a crossword puzzle is deciding on the grid size. This decision should be based on how you plan to use the puzzle, as well as whether or not you’re using software or a website to help you design the puzzle. Why do your plans on using the puzzle matter? Well, if you are using the puzzle for your personal use, or even as a unique way to entertain a party or group of people, you have a little more flexibility in the grid size than you would if you were submitting the puzzle to a publication to print. Most publications have a standard grid size that they will accept - anything larger or smaller than those specifications, and you can almost guarantee that your submission will not be accepted. Additionally, the tools you use to help you construct the puzzle grid are important because if you are creating the puzzle by hand, then you have the freedom to make the puzzle as large or as small as you would like. Some puzzle-making software and websites that help you construct puzzles may have a max size for the grid.
Create Puzzle Theme and Word List
Once you’ve determined the size you want your grid to be, you can then begin creating your word list. The word list is the list of words that are used as the answers in your puzzle. Typically, these words are developed around a primary theme, such as flowers, automobiles, vacation spots, and so on. Many constructors name the puzzle after the theme, or use the puzzle’s word list as a clue to its theme.
Place the Word List into the Grid
After you’ve created the word list, place the list of words into your grid. This will help you figure out the best way to connect all of the words together in a grid format, as well as give you an idea of how many black squares you will have in your grid. Be sure to split the list, making some words going vertically and others horizontally in your grid.
Number the Grid Answers
Number the grid answers so that the beginning of each word is associated with a number. Remember that one number can be used twice! This is what will allow you to have the same number being used for the answer to an across clue, as well as a down clue, for example - 4-Across; 4-Down.
Keep in mind that if you are using software that helps you construct a puzzle, most software programs will do this task for you automatically.
Create the List of Clues
Once you’ve completed the above tasks, you are now ready to create the clues for each of the words in your list. While there are some software programs available that can complete this task for you automatically, it is not an advisable approach. This is because many of the programs available will often use very difficult clue combinations for the word list. While you do want a puzzle to be challenging, you do not want to make them too challenging to complete. It is better to manually create the clue combinations so that you can balance the difficulty level, allowing for some easy clues as well as some challenging ones.
As you are creating your clue combination list, remember to number each clue with its corresponding answer in the grid. For instance, if the answer to 1-across is “tulip”, the corresponding clue combination for 1-across could be “early springtime flower”.
Blank Puzzle Copies and Answer Keys
Now that you’ve completed all of the above steps, you can begin to create a blank puzzle grid that consists of only the numbered answer squares and the blank/unusable squares, along with the clue combination lists to distribute. Be sure to keep a copy of the already-filled-in puzzle, though. This can be used as an answer key so that you can check the puzzle-solver’s work!