How to Create a Crossword Puzzle: Tips and Tricks

Solving a crossword puzzle is a great way to test your knowledge and decoding skills. However, you do not only solve but create a crossword puzzle of your own to challenge others.

Creating a crossword puzzle has several stages starting from deciding their grid size, the words, and their layouts in grids. You have to number the squares, give clues for each word in a listicle format. The core challenge is to find words that can challenge the solver into second-guessing their answers. Therefore, you need a good vocabulary to ensure you can give out accurate clues in a cryptic format for each word that goes into your crossword puzzles grid.

Crosswords are a great means to generate hours of exercising those brain muscles to have fun and improve your mind’s agility. They can also be excellent educational tools to engage young ones and introduce them to the concept of vocabulary and how the same word can mean different things. While some people only love to solve crossword puzzles, many wonder how puzzle creators come up with these brain twisters. The process to create a crossword puzzle is simpler than you may think, and you can make one as per your interest

I have been an avid crossword puzzle solver since an early age. As I grew older, I started obsessing with the idea of how the masterminds come up with such structured puzzles every single time. Hence began my journey to decoding how to create my own crossword puzzles. I started handing them out to my family and friends and got their feedback to improve my skills and level of difficulty in my puzzles. Here is what I learned that might help you create your crossword puzzle right away.

Table of contents


4 Steps to Create a Crossword Puzzle

There are several steps involved in the making of a crossword puzzle, and here is the most simplistic version for you to create.

1.      Deciding Your Grid Size

An official crossword puzzle comes in standard dimensions that you must adhere to. However, you can always pick a size you want. You can always look for an online crossword puzzle creator with a restriction on the range of grid size you can make. That said, a 15x15 or 21x21 size will do just fine.

2.      Making Your List Word for the Crossword Puzzle

You can select these words based on a theme you are choosing for the crossword puzzle. For example, you can use Halloween as a theme, and then all the words and clues in this cross will be something related to Halloween, such as movies, events, folklore, etc.

3.      Laying out the Words into Grid Format

This is one of the challenging parts. You can have to pick words that fit into the grid size exactly into the number of boxes that you create. In the US, all the words must connect to other words, and every letter must correspond to a Down word and Across word. However, UK allows words that do not connect to others; these are known as “hanging words.”

If the answer word is a phrase instead of a single word, you cannot give spaces between these words. Plus, the answer to the clue should not include any punctuation.

4.      Numbering the Starting Squares

These are the first squares where the first letter of each answer must go. So, you have to identify these squares as a reference to each clue.

 For example, the “1” in the corner of a square means the first alphabet of clue one’s answer will go in there, and then the rest of the alphabets will follow. The challenging part is that you have to ensure that 1 must refer to the square where the answer for both “1 Across” and “1 Down” begins.

8 Tips and Tricks to Create a Crossword Puzzle

1.      Creating Straightforward Clues

The best and easiest way is to sort out the simplest clues first. For instance, the clue says, a cult villain from Nightmare on Elm Street = Freddie Kruger, or Kiss under the what on Christmas = mistletoe.

The best part is that you do not have to stick to literal clues. You can create an indirect clue using metaphors to challenge the puzzle solvers into working their brain cells. For example, “The Whole Court is Out of Order” = Al Pacino (taken from his movie And Justice for All).

2.      Creating Cryptic Clues

Some puzzle solvers enjoy the amusement of solving cryptic puzzles. These clues usually end with a question mark. Cryptic clues are basically a play on words and involve multiple layers of puzzle-solving, where one answer may lead to another before you can guess the right word.

Sometimes, you may have to look into synonyms of a word in mind to get the right answer. Additionally, the answer to your clue may even be a similar word in a foreign language.

3.      Organizing Your Clues

This is pretty simple; you have to create a list of all your clues. However, the number clues for the Across and Down must be equal. The best practice is to create a list in ascending order. This is one reason why your grid must be one of the five recommended sizes i.e.

·         15x 15

·         17x17

·         19x19

·         21x21

·         23x23

But remember, it will get challenging for you to create a crossword puzzle that will increase with your grids’ size. You must also ensure that your puzzle diagram is symmetrical with 180-degree rotation. This means it should appear the same from whichever angle you look at, i.e., a perfect square with smaller square grids within.

4.      Avoiding Small Words

This is inevitable because smaller words will create difficulty for you to fit in words in a 15x15 or large grid. Therefore, you will have to fit in 2 or more clues in a single grid and then create words that can fit in both Across and Down with a letter in these words.

5.      Using Reference Words

As a standard rule, the word in your puzzle must be present in a dictionary, textbook, atlas, almanac, or work of literature. However, you can always use reference words to point to an answer.

6.      Avoiding Repeating Words

It is best to use a word only once in your clues, as this can create confusion and may lead to the same answer unintentionally. That said, certain themed crossword puzzles exempt you from this rule.

7.      Making Your Long Words Count

A hallmark to create crossword puzzles that boggles the mind of the solver is to include the longest words related to the theme. People may know the normal terminologies for holiday seasons, but you have to find the most uncommon or unorthodox words that are almost unheard of. This is what will add oomph to your crossword puzzle.

8.      Creating an Answer Key

You can create a copy by photocopying the puzzle or making one by hand. However, this time you will fill in all the answers, and this will serve as a key for the puzzle solver to tally their answers.

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