You solve them every day. Have you ever wondered how the puzzles you tackle are made? They can be done automatically with synonyms and other easy clues, but sometimes – especially for more established crosswords, like the New York Times – they’re done by hand.
Below, we’ll cover the exact process behind how it’s done – if you’re wondering how to make a crossword yourself, this page will point you in the direct direction.
Step 1: Pick the size of your puzzle grid
The bigger the grid, the harder the puzzle (usually).
If you’re creating a puzzle for a kids (or even a group of people who don’t usually do crosswords), 10×10 is the perfect size. It’s challenging enough to take real effort, but not so difficult that you’ll come close to solving the puzzle and realize that half of your answers don’t fit.
13×13 and 15×15 are both popular choices for intermediates – 17×17 and above is when you start making really difficult crosswords that take much longer to solve completely.
Step 2: Brainstorm & arrange your words
You want to make up your words before your clues to make sure everything will fit perfectly into your grid.
Make a big list of words that you’d like to use. If you’re making a theme-based crossword, you’ll know them off the top of your head. You can browse the dictionary or just look around the room for inspiration, too.
Start placing your words in your grid from top to bottom. We would recommend filling out every other horizontal line first, instead of alternating horizontal and vertical – you’ll save yourself an unbelievable amount of time and headache.
After placement, blank spaces can be filled in with black squares – but a good crossword puzzle doesn’t have too many black squares. Use your judgement – if you feel there’s a lot of empty space, consider reducing the size of your grid.
Step 3: Number your crossword
If you’re writing by hand, do this manually by moving from the top left to the bottom right corner. Words should be numbered in the top left corner of the tile where each one begins.
If possible, use a service like Puzzle Maker to get your words numbered automatically.
Step 4: Write your clues
Clues can be anything. They should be just a couple of words (no complete sentences), but aside from that, it’s completely up to you.
Even the seasoned puzzle writers are winging it.
When you have your list of clues, make a split chart with columns for the horizontal and vertical entries. Each clue should be numbered and under the appropriate column.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you write:
• Every person doing the crossword should be able to theoretically solve every clue – no inside jokes or references that only you or a specific group of people would possibly understand.
• Some clues should be easy; some should be hard. You want every person to scan your puzzle and be able to immediately solve 3-5 clues without thinking, but some should take more time than usual, too.
• Make it fun! Don’t write down a bunch of boring old words. Try to make your puzzle based on a theme and you’ll get your players much more interested.
It’s easiest to use some sort of software to create your puzzle – even if you prefer solving your crosswords by hand, creating by hand is a whole different challenge. Puzzle-Maker.com and The Teacher’s Corner are both great tools that allow you to create puzzles in a snap.
If you want to create your own puzzle to entertain a group of people or publish online, follow the instructions above and you’ll be on your way to creating the perfect puzzle that’s exactly as challenging as you want it to be. Good luck!