Forum > General Discussion

methods of crossword construction

(1/2) > >>

I feel that it is time in my life to dabble in crossword construction.  Before I begin, I'm interested to know if the use of software is considered a legitimate method for serious puzzlers.  What would Will Shortz say?  Should I stick to a blank 15 X 15 grid and a bale of pencils? 

It's always good to start raw and then gradually work your way into the use of software. Using paper and pencil as a newbie may help you to see more of the insides of what crossword constructing is all about.


And before buying a lawn mower, you should cut your lawn with a pair of scissors, so you can really get one-on-one with the grass and how it works.

Making up a crossword by hand is a difficult task. It's a good intellectual challenge - you have to think in two directions at once, considering not only the quality of the Across word, but also the likelihood of that word intersecting with valid Down words. It becomes sort of instinctive over time - but I'm not sure it's an instinct that functions as a useful skill if you use more automated methods. There's no virtue to it.

Back in 1976, my chemistry teacher insisted that we spend four weeks learning how to use the slide rule. Calculators were in widespread use by then, but she explained that calculators have batteries that run out. A slide rule never runs out. Over the years, my skill on the slide rule has been utterly useless to me. I'd say that doing crosswords by hand is the same.

Even when I was creating crosswords by hand decades ago, using specialized crossword dictionaries. I longed to find a way to automate the tedious aspects by getting my Apple II+ to do the hard work. I wrote programs for it, but creating the dictionaries was hard, and the computer was too slow to be much help. (I did create a damn fine Word Search puzzle creator, though.)

Today, the programs will do a wonderful job of helping you create a puzzle. You can use most software in a semi-automatic mode, where you enter words, and the software instantly offers potential fits. It allows the constructor to focus on the creative, dare I say, artistic side of things. Where it was once impressive to create a grid that worked at all, today the impressive accomplishments involve ingenious clues, or challenging words and grids. The use of software has made puzzles far more interesting, and lets constructors focus their energy on adding elements that make a puzzle more exciting for the solver.


Construction via software is more common than via manual means, but both are widely accepted with editors.  Considering that the grid requirements -- maximum word count, minimum theme letter count, maximum black letter count, etc. -- have not changed in over 20 years, one can safely assume that manual construction is not being discouraged.

Hello, everyone! This is my first post...and wouldn't ya know I'd be asking a question instead of offering any helpful advice? But I'm asking because I have been unable to find the answer in any books or on any websites. As duncan points out, making a crossword puzzle by hand is very difficult. I've tried---and tried and tried and tried! I have a hard time coming up with criss-crossing five- or six-letter words and I certainly can't figure out how anyone can come up with three or four "stacked" fifteen-letter words which also make words vertically. If a puzzle maker wants to start with three fifteen-letter words or phrases, how does he determine which word to start with? And does he place the top word first or does he start with the second word? I can come up with thousands of fifteen-letter words and phrases---how about "cruciverbalists"?---but I can't understand how anyone can stack three or four so there are words both directions. Perhaps the people who make such puzzles are using a computer program...but still, how do they determine where to start?


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version