How Do You Make a Crossword Puzzle?

So how do you make a crossword puzzle?  From my uneducated point of view it seems an unbelievably complex task.  I can see that you would start with one word, probably a fairly long word.  Then you would cross it with another word.  That’s simple; one shared letter.  You could easily go on like this but then you would have something like a word chain and it would take up a lot of room.  Newspapers wouldn’t go for it.  And it would be too simple to interest most people.

To have a true crossword puzzle you have to have words that share more than one letter with other crossing words.  A good crossword puzzle must have lots of words sharing lots of letters with other words.  They usually wind up with those compact little rectangles of four or five letter words each sharing all their letters with other words.  So how do you make something like that?

If I was to try to make a real crossword puzzle I think I would wind up with at least some, maybe a lot of words that didn’t mean anything.  Total gibberish, a random collection of vowels and consonants.  I guess you could do that and just put something like ‘Random letters’ as the clue.  (Is that what you call it?  A clue?  There is probably an official word for that, a word that would fit nicely into a crossword puzzle.)  Or you could put in a clue like ‘The seventh letter in the alphabet, the twenty-third letter in the alphabet, the sixteenth letter in the alphabet…’  I imagine that would be frowned on by real crossword enthusiasts.

You could cheat.  You could claim those unwords are proper names.  If you were feeling especially devious you could make up clues like ‘Nineteenth century Russian author’ or ‘Inventor of the cup holder’ or ‘Medieval torture device’.   Few could dispute you.  Or you could get really mean and just make up things.  Household utensils would work.  ‘Sardine press’.  ‘Potato chip grinder’.  ‘Oder extractor’.  Or needlework tools.  ‘Thread untangler’.   ‘Needle grader’.  Just walk through any craft store or hobby shop and the ideas will jump out at you.

But that wouldn’t work.  You would be ridiculed, belittled, called out and chastised severely.  You couldn’t, shouldn’t do it.  It would be like someone making up a solitaire deck with one card missing.  I wonder.  If you could reprogram the Windows Solitaire program…

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About Angus Lewis

My wife and I lived our whole lives in Arkansas until ten years ago. We moved to the Kansas City area in 2011 (a job change). That was the reason for the 'From a Far Country' title. Our children and grandchildren were in Arkansas. Six months ago we sold our house and bought one in Sherwood, Arkansas and my wife moved back down here. Two weeks ago I retired and moved back too. (I'm probably going to try to find something part time to keep me out of trouble.) So maybe the 'From a Far Country' title is not so much of a fit anymore. But I think I'll stick with it. I'm still not home. Not yet. The Bible says we are all strangers and pilgrims here. Our real home is with God and some day we'll be there. We'll be home.
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