Making Crossword Puzzles: 2007

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Making Crossword Puzzles – A peek behind the scenes

To embroider a bit on the idea of using a theme, I came across this article about Bonny L. Gentry at azcentral. She's a lady that's making crossword puzzles that have run in the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.

It is fascinating to me what people use to generate creative thoughts. Here are a few excerpts from the article that shows how creative making crossword puzzles can be:
There are computer programs that help crossword-puzzle creators like Bonnie L. Gentry of Scottsdale with some of the mundane tasks, like deciding where the black squares go and suggesting short words.

But most of the work that goes into a crossword happens away from the computer. It comes with Gentry scribbling ideas and odd words on slips of paper, trying to come up with the creative and clever themes that make crossword fans smile.

Gentry finds a theme or quote to build the puzzle around. She did one, for example, built around this quote from golfer John Daly: "I hit the ball as hard as I can. If I can find it, I hit it again."

For another, she played off the phrase "win, lose or draw." Her three answers were "winning smile," "losing one's nerve," and "drawing board."

I never would have thought of going about it quite like that, but thinking about it in such a creative way, making crossword puzzles can be very interesting.

Here is a link to the full article…

If you are asked to give particulars do so it’s harmless.
Love to hear what you think.


PS. For those tugging at the bit... Making Crossword Puzzles.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Making Crossword Puzzles

I've always wanted to know more about making crossword puzzles. I started collecting information about the subject, and one thing that tickled my fancy is the fact that lots of crossword puzzles have a theme. Yes - a theme.
General info.
As you are here because you’re interested in making crossword puzzles, I don’t want to spend long on the look and feel of a crossword puzzle. All I want to say about that is that there are different styles of grid as well as different types of clues. All very technical if you want to create for the big newspapers and magazines. I really don’t think this is the time and place to go into that in too much detail.
A bit of history.
As far as I could ascertain the first crossword puzzle, created by Arthur Wayne, was published on December 21, 1913 in the New York World. You can see that crossword here. As you saw, Wynne's puzzle was different from today's crosswords as it was diamond shaped and contained no internal black squares. During the early 1920's lots of newspapers picked up on crossword puzzles as a newly discovered pastime and within a decade crossword puzzles were featured in almost all American newspapers. It was also during this time that crosswords began to look like they do today.
According to one source over 40 million people in the US alone solve a crossword daily! We can surely say the crossword puzzle is the most popular and widespread word game in the world.
More about themes.
A theme seems to be a continuous thread that keeps the whole crossword together. It usually consists of the longest words and those words are placed in the crossword first. Thereafter the rest of the shorter words, or filler, are added. Themes started to appear in the late 1950’s and is usually announced in the crossword’s title.
The majority of crosswords are theme-less, but they are usually much more difficult than those with themes. More difficult to complete as well as more difficult to create. Easier clues are normally also easier to write. It is really not such a good idea for a beginner to start without a theme as the theme acts as the glue that holds the whole thing together. The theme also acts as a creative kick-starter.
Obviously the theme you use must be fairly general so that it contains facts that are not too way out. A theme about building igloos will, for instance, not work very well for people living in the tropics. There are always the exceptions, of course. Making such a crossword puzzle for a class to help them learn more about Eskimo culture can very well have igloo building as one theme.
In this blog you will learn more about making crossword puzzles, so stay tuned.
To Be Continued...
Happy Puzzling,
PS. Don’t want to wait? A good book on making crossword puzzles can be found here.