THE MINDSET, THE RULES, AND TIPS
This article will cover the basics of how to make a crossword puzzle from start to finish. We will not only go over the rules, tips and tricks but also provide you with an insight of the mindset required to sit down and compose the most challenging and fun crossword puzzle you can. After all, there are a lot of good stereotypes that revolve around crossword creators, such as being smart and witty. Trust me when I say that there is not a more fulfilling satisfaction as a crossword puzzle creator then when you have people scratching their heads around the crossword puzzle you have created.
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In order to build a competitive crossword, that will have people scratching their heads to find the crossword puzzle answers you have to follow a certain set of rules. These rules will help you make the process friction-less even though most of the things are left to human judgement. The main rules of crossword creation are:
Grid Symmetry: The base of all crossword puzzles is the grid. All crossword grid patterns should be diagonally symmetrical, which means it should look the same even though one might turn it upside down. Explained in more detail if the sixth square from the left and the fourth from the top is black, the sixth square from the right and fourth from the bottom must also be of a black color.
Grid Connectives: All the white boxes that are left out when we generate our pattern of black boxes should be connected to each other. This way, when the people that will try to solve our puzzle fill in the white boxes, the connection between the white boxes will hint to the solving of the other words. This way, in an incremental fashion the possibilities will be narrowed down until the quiz is completely solved.
Word Length: While there is no real written rule that sets a maximum limit to the length of the word on must find and fill in, there is a rule for the minimum length of the word which must be three.
Black Square Frequency: While in practice most crossword creators/designers have been encouraged to limit black tiles(squares) to about 17% or no more than one sixth of the entire grid system, there is no longer a formal rule that limits you to how many black boxes your grid is encouraged to have. If you are still considering having large chunks of black boxes it is highly not recommended because also does look aesthetically not good.
Word Count: A general rule of thumb is that puzzles with fewer words and more whitespaces are more connected, and more challenging both to write and to solve.
Duplicate Words: A very important rule in crossword quiz writing is that a word cannot be an answer to two clues. The same rule also applies when it comes to answers that have multiple words as answers.
Theme Entries: A themed crossword is mostly seemed on modern themes. The benefit of having a themed crossword is because it somehow unifies and binds the crossword together. This gives a little bit more logic and gives a clearer insight that helps the person solve the quiz since there is a connection between the answers.
Word Choice: Words are the essential component of a crossword puzzle, and as such you must be careful to choose the right ones to incorporate.
a. Crosswordese: Always try to not incorporate words that are common in crosswords.
Clue Conventions: Clue conventions should be followed. The solver should be challenged to find the clue whether then following the convention.
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Tips for crossword creators
After taking into the account all the rules that have been written above, the first thing you should do when designing a crossword puzzle is finding a relevant theme for it, and if possible brainstorm words that are relevant to the theme. Always make sure to brainstorm more words than you will actually use. A good resource for getting word ideas is also the popular free daily jumble
Next step is to fill in the black boxes based on how your words lay out on the quiz grid. When you find yourself in a difficult position with the words on the grid you can always have room to re-arrange more logically and play around with the places of the black boxes.
When writing the questions for your crossword always keep a set of tool handy. Such as Wikipedia, Google and dictionaries. This way you can write down great clues that make your crossword more fun and engaging for the person that will be solving it.
Clue composition should always be the last step when it comes to finishing off with the crossword. Clues give you the leverage. Depending on the clues you give you control how hard, challenging and fun you want the crossword to be. Also keep in mind that when you have a themed crossword the clues should also indicate that in an insightful manner.