The New York Times looks for intelligent, literate, entertaining and well-crafted crosswords that appeal to the broad range of Times solvers.
Themes should be fresh, interesting, narrowly defined and consistently applied throughout the puzzle. If the theme includes a particular kind of pun, for example, than all the puns should be of that kind. Themes and theme entries should be accessible to everyone (themeless daily puzzles using wide-open patterns are also welcome).
Constructors should emphasize lively words and names and fresh phrases. We especially encourage the use of phrases from everyday writing and speech, whether or not they are in the dictionary. For variety, try some of the lesser-used letters of the alphabet--J, Q, X, Z, K, W, etc. Brand-names are acceptable if they're well-known nationally and you use them in moderation.
The clues in an ideal puzzle provide a well-balanced test of vocabulary and knowledge, ranging from classical subjects like literature, art, classical music, mythology, history, geography, etc., to modern subjects like movies, TV, popular music, sports and names in the news. Clues should be accurate, colorful and imaginative. Puns and humor are welcome.
Do not use partial phrases longer than five letters (ONE TO A, A STITCH IN, etc.), uninteresting obscurity, (a Bulgarian village, a water bug genus, etc.) or uncommon abbreviations or foreign words. Keep crosswordese to a minimum. Difficult words are fine--especially for the harder daily puzzles that get printed late in the week--if the words are interesting bits of knowledge or useful additions to the vocabulary. However, never let two obscure words cross.
Maximum word counts: 78 words for a 15x15 (72 for an unthemed); 140 for a 21x21. Maximums may be exceeded slightly, at the editor's discretion, if the theme warrants.
Diagramlesses must be 17x17 in size. Follow the style as shown on the Sunday puzzle page. Puns 'n' Anagams and cryptics are done by assignment only.
Times puzzles must never have been published anywhere before, either in print or electronically. The Times buys all rights, including first rights.
Use regular typing paper (8 1/2" x 11"). Type the clues double-spaced on the left (no periods after the numbers), answer words in a corresponding column on the far right. Give a source for any hard to verify word or information. Down clues need not begin on a new page. Include a filled-in answer grid with numbers and a blank grid with numbers (for the editor's use). Put your name, address, and email address (if you have one) on the two grid pages. Only your name is needed on the other pages.
Will Shortz, Crossword Editor