Ever since The New York Times began printing their famed daily crossword, crosswords have been a popular feature in newspapers all over the world. That’s why many editors want to make a newspaper crossword for their own periodicals.
If you’ve never made a newspaper-style crossword puzzle before, though, it can feel overwhelming. Our professional guide has lots of great tips for perfecting a newspaper-style puzzle. Here, we’ll highlight the most important tips to get you started with your very first puzzle.
#1 Start small.
A conventional newspaper crossword has a grid of 15 x 15 (15 squares across and down). Yours doesn’t have to! You can make it as small as 5 x 5 if that feels more manageable to you. In fact, mini crosswords have significantly grown in popularity since 2016 according to Google Trends.
#2 Pay attention to the grid info.
In our newspaper-style crossword puzzle maker, the “Grid Info” feature helps you check in with how you’re doing. Found in the left-hand side bar, the grid info checks for:
- Grid Symmetry
- Grid Connectedness
- Word Length
- Black Square Frequency
If you’re doing well in these categories, a green checkmark will appear. If there’s an error in any of theses categories, a red X will appear. The question mark icon next to each word will tell you what it means. For your first puzzle, use the grid info as a guide, but don’t feel stuck on it (more on this in #7).
#3 Solve a lot of crosswords.
The more crosswords you solve, the more you’ll understand standard crossword construction. You can solve numerous newspaper-style crosswords here for free and come back to them anytime.
#4 Start with a theme (if you want one).
There are certain guidelines to newspaper crossword themes. You can get a sense of what a newspaper crossword theme looks like with this New York Times mini crossword.
Not every newspaper crossword has a theme, though. Themes can be fun and may make it easier for readers to solve a puzzle. But if it’s difficult for you to add a theme to your first puzzle, then save it for another time.
#5 Consider hiring someone.
Constructing crosswords is no easy feat, which is why some people make a living creating them. Learn more about professional crossword constructors. Or, publicize your interest in hiring a crossword constructor through your publication and other lists.
#6 Read other cruciverbalist blog posts.
We’re a fan of the DIY route for crossword puzzles. Because of this, our cruciverbalist posts address special topics such as crossword abbreviations, common crossword answers, and more subjects that can help you create your first puzzles. Don’t see a topic you’re interested in? Send us an email.
#7 Break the rules a little.
Remember: your first puzzles don’t have to be perfect. If you want to add a crossword to your publication, don’t let perfection stop you! This mini for Capitol Hill Seattle breaks some of the “rules,” but it still had thousands of visitors in its first week. Some rules you can relax a bit on include:
- Using crosswordese
- Grid symmetry
- Black square frequency
- Adding a theme
- Word count
In the end, crosswords should be fun! Making them doesn’t need to feel like a chore. Simply start where you feel comfortable. The more puzzles you make, the more polished they’ll become.
Once you feel more comfortable making your own newspaper crossword, revisit our professional guide. Then, you can refine your skills and make more complex puzzles. Soon enough, you’ll get a sense of what your readers enjoy and how to make the best newspaper crossword for your audience. The most important thing is that your readers have fun.
Kristen Seikaly used her artistic background, research skills, and love for the internet to launch her first blog, Operaversity. Now she uses the skills to connect teachers, parents, and game enthusiasts with Crossword Hobbyist and My Word Search. She studied music at the University of Michigan, and now lives in Philadelphia.