User

Welcome, Guest.
Please login or register.
 
 
 
Forgot your password?

Navigate

Resources

Donations


You can help support this site by making a small donation using either a PayPal account:

or with a major credit card such as:

 

 

Click here for details.

Google Ads

Author Topic: How do you guys come up with good crossword clues?  (Read 1192 times)

ryanspuzzles

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 4
How do you guys come up with good crossword clues?
« on: April 10, 2017, 05:51:28 PM »
Hey everyone!

Cluing is my biggest obstacle in constructing a crossword. My main strategy is to vary the subject matter across entries so that the puzzle is at least entertaining. But more often than not, the set of clues I come up with is pretty bland. It's especially hard to come up with the harder clues that rely on wordplay and misdirection (the kind you see in Friday and Saturday NYT puzzles).

So I was wondering: What are your strategies in coming up with clues? Also, are there any good references or resources out there that you use to help brainstorm?

4wd

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 23
Re: How do you guys come up with good crossword clues?
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2017, 09:44:18 AM »
I usually don't rush the clue writing process, I'd spend a week or two writing clues. A slow and steady approach works best for me, sometimes I'd get a clue idea when I wake up at night or just going about the everyday routine, so just giving yourself that time to ease into it you tend to write better clues and come up with unique ideas.

edit: added a little more detail

within the 1-2 weeks spent on clue writing, I'd spend time improving initial clues, crafting different variations or brand new clues for particular entries, having multiple cluing options comes in handy as they can be used in future puzzles.

« Last Edit: April 11, 2017, 12:45:26 PM by 4wd »

Glenn9999

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 28
  • Common Solver, New Constructor
Re: How do you guys come up with good crossword clues?
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2017, 11:43:16 AM »
But more often than not, the set of clues I come up with is pretty bland.

What do you mean by "pretty bland"?

So I was wondering: What are your strategies in coming up with clues? Also, are there any good references or resources out there that you use to help brainstorm?

I haven't been able to successfully build a complete grid yet - my biggest obstacle.  This is mainly for coming up with words/phrases that are interesting to me that'll work with the themers I have in the places I have them - probably could if I did allow that "bleh" feeling to creep in.  From what I gather in all of my puzzle solving and what I've read, the words in your grid (i.e. "sparkling fill" according to the guides here) are what keeps it from being "pretty bland" - which is why I asked what you meant by that exactly.

As for clue writing (something I got a whole lot more confidence in when I get to that point), a lot depends on your theme and your targeted difficulty (day).  The big key is making sure your clues are syntactically correct and interesting.  Monday clues are going to (perhaps) be a lot more "pretty bland" simply because you want to point them more directly to the answer, while you get to play around more with later week stuff.   Your chosen theme, and the prerogative of the editor will play a large part in how much of your clues survive if the editor takes the grid.  Several of those "advice posts" to the left also suggest to not be too "cute" with a lot of your clue writing, which may be the kind of advice you're needing.  Note several puzzles are cataloged in different places, and you can always use them to look up your fill words and see how they have been clued in other grids.

So maybe your advice might be the same that I probably need to take with my grid building: To not worry so much.  Hard to tell, though.  See also, this.

Not sure how much of this helped, but hopefully it does.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2017, 11:45:04 AM by Glenn9999 »
My Blog of Totally Random Crossword Observations: http://glenncrossblog.wordpress.com

ryanspuzzles

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 4
Re: How do you guys come up with good crossword clues?
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2017, 04:28:17 PM »
4wd: That may be a big part of my problem: I'm trying to rush the process. It might help if I take a couple of days to think over my fill and play around with the possibilities.

Glenn9999: That actually does help a bit, and it confirms my suspicion about the fill/clue connection.

Let me add some detail here. I make a weekly puzzle for our local library and I figure most of my audience doesn't do very many crosswords so I try to keep it between Monday and Wednesday level.

Quote
From what I gather in all of my puzzle solving and what I've read, the words in your grid (i.e. "sparkling fill" according to the guides here) are what keeps it from being "pretty bland"

I've actually stopped using themes so that I can focus on fill for a bit. It seems to be helping so far.

Quote
What do you mean by "pretty bland"?

I guess by "pretty bland" I mean most of my clues come across as the sort of brief "definition" clues you see in big puzzle magazines (like [Morning moisture] for DEW, [Notable time in history] for ERA, etc.) To me those sorts of clues are fine in moderation, but I still want to toss in some fun clues and a tiny bit of wordplay to keep the puzzle just a small bit... puzzling.

4wd

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 23
Re: How do you guys come up with good crossword clues?
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2017, 05:07:37 PM »
4wd: That may be a big part of my problem: I'm trying to rush the process. It might help if I take a couple of days to think over my fill and play around with the possibilities.

yup, it'll help you lots, I rushed stuff as well when I started was only till I took it easy that everything clicked.
 Another habit of mine is to print the filled grid with the clues, that way its easy to edit/update em. Looking at a screen all the time can distract you, pencil and paper works best for me.

stickler

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Re: How do you guys come up with good crossword clues?
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2017, 09:32:03 PM »
I'm going to admit to being a complete novice when it comes to writing US crosswords, but, as a writer of over 6000 published cryptic crosswords, and a fan of US crosswords, I'd like to offer some observations. A cryptic clue has two distinct parts, the definition and a secondary part often called the wordplay.  A good cryptic clue puts these two parts together seamlessly and the only way to do that is to explore every aspect of the definition possible. That is, the more options you have with the definition, the better chance there is that you can find a matching wordplay. My goal with the definition and the goal of the typical US crossword writer is the same. My advice is to explore every aspect of the answer, meaning look up the word to be clued in multiple dictionaries and thesauruses (including doing searches of the entire reference's entries), Wikipedia etc, and find out where it's used, what it's part of, use around the world etc. With a lot of information something should emerge that's a little different to normal that hopefully will add spark to your clues.

The Stickler

www.stickler.com.au for a free weekly international cryptic with clue help and worked solutions

Glenn9999

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 28
  • Common Solver, New Constructor
Re: How do you guys come up with good crossword clues?
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2017, 02:22:13 AM »
Let me add some detail here. I make a weekly puzzle for our local library and I figure most of my audience doesn't do very many crosswords so I try to keep it between Monday and Wednesday level.

I guess by "pretty bland" I mean most of my clues come across as the sort of brief "definition" clues you see in big puzzle magazines

It won't be too hard if you're keeping it around the Tuesday level.  Remember that you can always change context on a piece of fill.  You can go with some dictionary part in some way, but you can apply it to culture of various kinds too.  For instance, if you look up a word and figure out it's in a popular song or movie title, you can always pop it in as a fill in the blank or something related and jazz up the grid that way.  For instance, to use an example from today's publications, you could code ATLANTA as [Georgia capital] or [Golden Globe-winning Donald Glover series].   The first is about a Mon/Tue level, the other one is late-week stuff.  Of course, you wouldn't want to do that on a word that by itself is hard, but it's a way to change up things and more or less is what Stickler is suggesting.
My Blog of Totally Random Crossword Observations: http://glenncrossblog.wordpress.com

ryanspuzzles

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 4
Re: How do you guys come up with good crossword clues?
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2017, 02:14:04 PM »
Fantastic advice everyone. Thank you.

 


Powered by EzPortal