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




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.

LA Times Specification - Updated 2020




as syndicated by Tribune Content Agency, LLC




Rich Norris, Editor


Patti Varol, Assistant Editor


Tribune Content Agency publishes the LA Times Crossword daily in 15x15 size and on Sundays in 21x21 size. For daily puzzles, 15x16 may be acceptable (see Queries below).








We prefer theme queries for Sunday 21x21. Puzzle title, theme answers, and theme clues must all be included with your query.


We encourage theme queries for 15x16.


For daily 15x15 puzzles, a complete manuscript is required, grid and clues.




No more than 2 puzzles attached to any email, please. But feel free to submit new puzzles even if you haven’t heard from us regarding a recent submission.


Acceptable formats


All versions of Crossword Compiler for Windows (CCW), Crossdown, Across Lite .puz, and Across Lite text (.puz is much preferred). You can create .txt files using any simple text editor. Instructions are available with Across Lite software, which is free at many online sites.


Naming your puzzle file


Your filename should be your last name (followed by a space) plus:


for daily puzzles, brief theme description, e.g., Johnson birds


for Saturday puzzles, 1-Across answer, e.g., Smith QUIZSHOW


for Sunday puzzles, title


Information required with submission


Put the second part of the above filename in your subject line.


List your theme entries and theme clues in the body of your email.


If you’re new, relatively new, or don’t submit often, please be sure to sign your email with your full name. This is especially helpful if your screen name bears no resemblance to your real name.


If you use CCW, under File/Crossword Information, please put your name in the Author field and your address in the Description field.  If this is a Sunday puzzle, be sure the title appears in the Title field. If you use any other software, please put your mailing address in your email. If we need your SSN for tax purposes, you will receive instructions and a form to fill out at year-end.


If you have any questions about any of this, don’t hesitate to write Patti or me about them.




Name your file the same way but include REV at the end of the file name.


Put the word REVISED or REVISION in your email subject line.


If we haven’t specifically asked for a revision, please don’t send one.


Response time


Our typical response time for original submissions is 8 to 12 weeks. However, submissions have increased dramatically in the past six months. As long as that continues, our response times are likely to be greater by 2 to 4 weeks. Rest assured that we are doing everything possible to review your work as quickly as possible. If we go beyond 16 weeks, don’t hesitate to drop us a short status inquiry.


For revisions, response time is 1 to 2 weeks.




Basic requirements


We use titles only in Sunday puzzles, not in daily ones. Your daily theme either should be explained/hinted at by a theme answer (the “Reveal”), or it should be obvious enough for solvers to spot without help. Ideally, the Reveal should be placed at or near the bottom-right of the grid. Other bottom locations are usually acceptable, and central reveals, if necessary, are also okay.




Themes should be fresh and consistently constructed. In general, avoid clichéd themes (colors, animals, etc.), although a new approach to an old theme will be considered. Daily puzzles should have at least 4 theme entries, with a minimum of 40 theme squares. Two- or three-entry themes will be considered in an open, low-word-count Friday-style (hard) puzzle. Sunday puzzles should have at least 6 theme entries, minimum 84 theme squares.




If a theme is well-hidden in the grid, please circle the theme letters.




We don’t use rebus puzzles, by which we mean ones that involve pictures, Arabic numbers, and/or multiple letters in a single square. However, we do allow other kinds of deceptive themes, such as answers that turn a corner. If you have an unorthodox theme type in mind that doesn’t fall under any of these categories, please query.


Themeless (Saturday only)


For themeless puzzles, use plenty of lively, familiar, contemporary words and phrases. Avoid obscurities and especially obscure abbreviations. If you aren't sure about what's obscure, either (a) ask, or (b) don't use it.




Basic requirements


Puzzle words must interlock throughout; grid patterns must be symmetrical (but see Symmetry below).


Maximum word counts: 78 for 15x15, 81 for 15x16, 72 for Saturday 15x15 themeless, 144 for 21x21.


Maximum black square count: 43 for 15x15. No fixed limit for 21x21 but you’re taking a chance if you go above 80.




Rotational symmetry—where the grid looks the same upside down as it does right side up—is the norm. Right-left symmetry is also acceptable if the theme requires it. An asymmetrical grid will only be considered if its asymmetry is theme-related.




No numerals or symbols of any kind. Only the letters A through Z can be in a grid box, one letter per box. Don’t use the letter I or O as the number 1 or 0 in a crossing answer. The only time such dual meanings are allowed is when one answer is a Roman numeral.


Partial phrases


Partials are those short multiword entries that require a fill-in clue, such as WAR OF, A BIRD, AS WE, etc. We allow these entries when necessary, but please limit them to one or two per daily puzzle and three or less for Sundays. Partials that end in a preposition or article are discouraged.


Proper Names


Using names of people and places enhances a puzzle, especially when the names are drawn from all over: TV, movies, literature, music, science, etc. A variety of names scattered about the grid can challenge solvers and help expand their knowledge base. Too many names in a puzzle, in our opinion, turn it into a trivia contest. Please avoid overuse of people's names, or any other material that falls in the either-you-know-it-or-you-don't category. Please avoid difficult names, especially if they’re long and hard to spell.   




Other Things to Avoid


Two-letter words; overuse of three-letter words; clumsy, made-up or strained phrases; uncommon abbreviations; obscurities; tasteless or graphically medical entries, including most diseases; blatant drug references; crossword clichés (crosswordese), including but not limited to ONER, ESNE, ANOA, etc. Avoid variant spellings in all but the most dire constructing emergencies. Keep abbreviations reasonable—no more than 10% of the word count. Keep foreign words to a minimum as well, and use only those the meaning of which is either well-known or obvious.




Basic requirements


Wherever possible, clues should be timely, clever, amusing, fresh. While it’s fine to consult an online database for clue ideas, we frown on puzzles in which most clues have been copied from such sources. Avoid overuse of one-word clues that are thesaurus synonyms. Also avoid overuse of wordy clues, since newspaper space is often limited. Vary the length of your clues, just as you would vary the length of sentences if you were writing an essay or a story.  




Difficulty ranges from easy (Monday/Tuesday) to moderately hard (Friday/Saturday) and increases through the week. Sunday puzzles are of moderate difficulty.


Match the difficulty of your clues to the type of theme. Puzzles with straightforward themes should have easy clues. Puzzles with cleverly hidden themes or wordplay should have harder clues. Themeless puzzles should always have moderately hard clues. Sunday puzzles should be of moderate (midweek) difficulty regardless of theme type.




If you had to look it up, chances are good that we will, also, so cite your reference. Common sense should dictate when a reference is required. CCW has a box in which you can enter a clue citation. Please remember to use it when appropriate.


E-mail puzzle files to:


PAYMENT: Daily, $85; Sunday, $250.


Powered by EzPortal