November 23, 2019 7:29 PM   Subscribe

Ever wondered how to make a crossword puzzle? The NYT Wordplay column has you covered.

Individual links to the series entries:
  1. Developing the Theme
  2. Designing the Grid
  3. Filling the Rest of the Grid
  4. Writing the Clues
  5. The Crossword Editor's Job
Want to try it for yourself? Here are some additional resources to help you out.

General Constructing Advice: Communities/Forums: Free Software: Crossword blogs:
  • xwordinfo, NYT crossword focused blog and resource. Often includes comments from the constructors themselves about a particular NYT puzzle.
  • Diary of a Crossword Fiend, daily review blog of published crosswords
Where to submit puzzles:
posted by jcreigh (12 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

This is a terrific post, thank you.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:02 PM on November 23, 2019

Wow, this is great! I love doing crosswords and periodically think I’d like to try making one before the actual mechanics of that flash before me - going to save this and maybe take a January weekend to actually do it.

it will not include epee or nne
posted by carbide at 2:10 AM on November 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

skip also NRA, DIES & IRAE, RELEE and avoid NATICK
posted by chavenet at 2:44 AM on November 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

Nice. I've often felt the desire to see if I could set a puzzle for the Times.
posted by hypnogogue at 8:48 AM on November 24, 2019

I enjoy doing crosswords but I seem to weirdly love making them. One of these days I'll probably even pay for the full-featured version of Crossword Compiler, though the trial version does have lots of great features.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:08 AM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

skip [. . .] RELEE

I enjoyed a recent USGRANT clue in the NYT for implicitly reminding us that Lee was the loser.
posted by mark k at 10:50 AM on November 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have wondered how they make crosswords. Thanks for this post!
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:35 AM on November 24, 2019

This is really great. I live in a smallish community with a mostly volunteer-run weekly newspaper and I've been thinking it needs a crossword. I'm thinking I should get my fingers inky.
posted by sugar and confetti at 5:35 AM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Brendan Emmett Quigley sets a nice liberal leaning puzzle for alt weeklies.
posted by hypnogogue at 3:21 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I used to use Crossword Compiler to do simple crosswords for my local football team's programme - it's a great piece of software, though it should be noted that British style crosswords are a bit different to US - whereas British tends to use set grids, US has a tendency to encourage as few black squares as possible, which leads to a lot of short words and a lot of what I would call 'crutch' words which get used over and over in many different puzzles simply because there's only one word that will fit there (OREO, ALAMO, ALOE, etc.). If you have to do crosswords for a publication (in my case, a football programme), it really helps to define your own word lists for use in Crossword Compiler - I would typically start with a couple of words or phrases I wanted to get into a puzzle - normally because I had good clues for them, that would give me the longest words to go in, and then start trying to fit in as many words as I could from the custom word list (which as it's football, contained all sorts of helpful non dictionary words that I'd otherwise struggle to fill (KANU, INCE, POGBA, etc)). Only when I couldn't use something from the custom word list would I dig into dictionary words. It's easy to get stuck where you will find you can't get a word to fit in - don't be afraid to throw a lot of stuff away, and you will get better with practice. One trick I found was that if you started bottom-right of the grid, it seemed easier, I think because it's just easier to spot when you're going to hit a dead-end sooner.
Also, think about your clues - there's often more than one way to a potential answer, and the clues are what the readers engage with - 'Borg' could refer to the Star-Trek baddie, or the tennis player. 'Speed' can be a verb, a film, a drug, or even Gary Speed formerly of Leeds United.
They're good fun to make, though constructing even a simple one takes quite a bit of time, at least initially.
posted by BigCalm at 8:39 AM on November 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've used qxw to construct crosswords for my sporadically-produced fanzine Extended Play, and while it has its bugs (I've never gotten the Windows version to acknowledge a different dictionary name than its default, I made due by backing up the included wordlist and then replacing it, with the same filename, with mine), it's invaluable, and recently got an update!
posted by JHarris at 11:20 PM on November 29, 2019

Always wanted to get started constructing a crossword puzzle, but got discouraged early by reading Rex Parker. If you ever want to know the vast breadth of what annoys a top-notch crossword puzzler, just check his blog out.
posted by carsonb at 1:34 PM on November 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

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