Constructing => General Discussion => Topic started by: slafaive on July 05, 2012, 04:09:31 PM

Title: Newbie advice?
Post by: slafaive on July 05, 2012, 04:09:31 PM

I've been a crossword puzzle enthusiast for years, but it was only a few weeks ago that I decided to try my hand at constructing a puzzle. Well, now I'm hooked, and I'd like some advice from the experts.

I'm not looking to make this a full-time job (though it does sound fun!), but I am interested in selling my puzzles. What advice do you have for getting puzzles published? Which markets are most likely to buy from new constructors? Obviously, I would love to have a puzzle published in the NYT, but I'm not sure how likely that is since they must get tens of puzzles every week.

Any advice would be welcome. Thanks!
Title: Re: Newbie advice?
Post by: ebirnholz on July 09, 2012, 06:57:27 PM
I'm no expert since I too am striving for my first publication, but I have been building and submitting puzzles for a few years now, so I have more experience in puzzle-making than when I first started.

My first recommendation would be to read over the links in Sage Advice (;sa=page;p=59), then read them over again.  Read over the Basic Rules (;sa=page;p=21) too.  The rules can be bent, but I'd suggest making sure you've got a good handle of them first before getting too ambitious.

Then, get yourself well-acquainted with the Cruciverb-L e-mail list, where you can e-mail other constructors.  Perhaps some who are real veterans in the field would agree to mentor you on whatever puzzles you create.

Next, if you don't have it, purchase the full version of Crossword Compiler.  It's a must for pretty much everyone in the crossword construction business.  You should also look into registering for both Xwordinfo and Cruciverb Gold memberships.  Those will give you access to tons of past puzzles where you can get ideas for puzzle construction.  They're not free, but they are worth it.  Not only will they help you with filling the grid, but more importantly, they might also help steer you away from themes which have been done in the recent past.  Editors are less likely to accept your submission if you use a theme that's already been done, or if you build a themeless grid with "anchor" entries that have already been used several times before, so look to put your own unique spin on things before doing the bulk of the work.

As far as submitting the puzzles, every outlet has pretty tough competition.  Will Shortz recently wrote that he accepts only 10% of all submissions ( that come across his desk.  I don't know what the numbers are for other venues, but I doubt the chances are significantly higher.  I wouldn't let that dissuade you from giving it a shot -- crossword construction is pretty fun and editors do love to encourage new constructors to submit their work -- just know that the competition is pretty fierce.  That's why it's all the more critical to make sure your puzzles really shine with great lively answers and clues, and an absolute minimum of dreck fill.

Hope that all helps.
Title: Re: Newbie advice?
Post by: slafaive on July 09, 2012, 09:05:40 PM
Thanks! Great advice. I do plan on buying Crossword Compiler next month. Is the Pro Grid Filler add-on worth it? I'm thinking of holding off on that for now.
Title: Re: Newbie advice?
Post by: ebirnholz on July 10, 2012, 03:23:33 AM
I'll let others answer that one.  I'm pretty sure I had the Pro Grid Filler on my old computer before the motherboard died, but some strange error prevented me from downloading it to my temporary laptop replacement.  In short, I think I've used it, but can't say for sure, and so don't know if it's worth it.