If you love crosswords, learning to make your own crossword puzzles may seem like something only a computer or the most gifted can do. Choosing a word list, coming up with clues, and making it all fit together might seem a little intimidating at first, but with experience and a bit of trial and error, the crossword puzzle making hobby becomes easier and might even turn into a favorite activity.
Crossword puzzles have been used for many years as both entertainment and as a form of education. When you create your own crossword puzzles, it gives you complete control over not only the way the board looks, but the content as well. Homemade puzzles are an ideal way to keep children entertained and encourage learning at the same time. Becoming a cruciverbalist, or crossword constructor, will take time, but it is worth it.
The History of Crossword Puzzles
Based on the ancient Word Square, crosswords first appeared in the United States in 1913. Originally called a “word-cross” puzzle, Arthur Wynne’s invention was published in the New York World on December 21, 1913. The World continued publishing regular crosswords, but their popularity soared in 1924 when Simon and Schuster published a book of crossword puzzles. All types of merchandise began sporting crossword puzzles, even clothes and jewelry.
Over the years, crosswords have gone through changes and been part of trends. Theme crosswords brought new groups of enthusiasts in to the crossword-loving crowd. In 1997, the first crossword puzzle making computer software was patented. Computer generated crossword puzzle software has greatly improved since those first primitive attempts and many enjoy using their own computers to create crosswords. Crossword puzzles are still the most popular word game throughout the world.
Did You Know?
- The New York Times, which today publishes a world-renowned crossword puzzle, was one of the last newspapers to begin publishing regular crossword puzzles.
- A word square is a group of three or more words placed in a square that reads the same across and down.
- The largest crossword puzzle ever constructed had an amazing total of 5,553 words!
- Hundreds of crossword puzzle tournaments and contests are held throughout the United States each year.
Getting Started With Crossword Puzzle Making
Creating crossword puzzles is an inexpensive hobby that can be as challenging or as relaxing as you choose. With no set time schedules or required sizes, crosswords can be worked on nearly anywhere at any time. With a few tools and a little knowledge, it’s easy to get started.
Become familiar with the following crossword terms before beginning to make your own crossword puzzles:
- Grid: The grid refers to the entire board.
- Spaces: Spaces are the light colored areas where the letters are written.
- Lights: Another word for spaces.
- Darks: Darks are the empty or black boxes within the puzzle grid.
- Down: Words within a puzzle that go in a vertical direction.
- Across: Words written in a horizontal direction within the grid.
The following basic equipment will be required to make your own crossword puzzles:
- Pen or pencil
- Paper: Graph and scratch
- Thesaurus or dictionary
- Marker: Typically black, but can be any color
There are numerous software programs available where you can design and create your own crossword puzzles. Using the “old fashioned” method of pencil and paper will give you a greater feeling of accomplishment and a more satisfying experience, however.
At an initial cost of $10 or less, crossword puzzle making is one of the most inexpensive hobbies to start.
How To Make Your Own Crossword Puzzles
Decide on a theme and grid style. Themes make the task of choosing a word list easier and give hobbyists a way to link clues together like the pros. Themes also narrow the potential word list down, giving the puzzle maker a less overwhelming group of words to from which to choose.
Use the dictionary or thesaurus to make a list of words that fit your theme. In the beginning, it is best to start with a small crossword puzzle, of 20 words or less. Choose words of varying lengths. Ready a list of 30 words for a 20-word puzzle so that you have enough possible word groupings to work with.
Using the scratch paper, begin designing your puzzle. Choose two words from your list that have a common letter. Write the first across the page and the second down, with the common letter intersecting. Do the same with the remaining 18 words.
You should now have a rough draft of the words and puzzle structure, transfer your puzzle grid to the graph paper, using a ruler to keep your lines in the proper place. Use the marker to indicate darks.
Number each column and row. Typically, horizontal words have their own set of numbers, beginning with one and vertical words have their own set, beginning with one.
Write the word clues. Clues are split in to two categories. One category for the horizontal words, called “Across”, and the second category for the vertical words, called “Down”. Clues must be listed in chronological order and should not be too easy or too difficult. Have fun writing the clues. Humor is allowed!
Crossword Puzzle Tips And Tricks
Use the following tips and tricks to help you make your own crossword puzzles…
- Be persistent. Like any new activity, starting and sticking with it will be the most difficult part.
- Be patient. Don’t give up. Creating crossword puzzles from scratch requires thought and practice. Frustration is a natural part of the process, but the satisfaction will be worth it when you have an impressive grid that you created yourself.
- Take the time to learn and enjoy making crossword puzzles.
- Start small and work your way up.
- Choose puzzle themes and word lists that you are familiar with, particularly in the beginning.
- Play as many crossword puzzles as you can. Playing will give you an idea about the different types of puzzles, how the clues are written, and teach you the techniques that make crossword puzzles fun.
Getting More Out of Making Your Own Crossword Puzzles
There is a lot to remember when you make your own crossword puzzles. As you become more experienced, each step will become second nature. The more crossword puzzles you make, the more creative you can be. After experiencing the fun and satisfaction that comes from creating crossword puzzles, making them more challenging is the next step.
Below are a few ideas to expand your new hobby:
- Change the clues from definitions of the word to more cryptic clues.
- Make the grid larger.
- Try different crossword puzzle layouts.
- Ask friends and relatives to solve your puzzles. Ask for suggestions. Are the puzzles too simple? Are the clues clear enough? Is the numbering correct? The answers will help you become a more skilled crossword puzzle creator.
- Join a local crossword puzzle group or club. Many clubs encourage members to create their own puzzles and share them with the group.
Crossword Puzzle Resources
The following online resources provide additional information about making your own crossword puzzles…
Cruciverb: An online community of crossword puzzle creators.
American Crossword Tournament: Sponsored by the New York Times, the tournament is held each year. The web site includes history, facts, online puzzles, and a variety of crossword resources.
OneAcross: Duke Unversity’s computer assisted crossword puzzle solving program.
ABC Teach: Printable online learning crossword puzzles for children.
Related YouTube Videos
Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.