How to Make Cross Word Puzzle

By Alexis Vega-Singer

If you enjoy doing the crossword puzzle in the newspaper or online, you may want to try creating your own crossword puzzles for others to do. You can make a personalized crossword puzzle to give as a gift to a friend, or make one as a special activity for your child.

Decide how hard you would like to work to make your crossword puzzle. A simple crossword puzzle could have as few as 10 clues and answers that overlap in only one or two letters. A crossword puzzle that is more difficult to make will include multiple "across" and "down" clues that overlap partially or fully. (How difficult the puzzle is to do has more to do with the clues than with the size of the puzzle.)

The theme words, filler words, graph paper

Start by writing your longest theme word in the middle of a piece of graph paper. Place the rest of the theme words into the grid vertically and horizontally, overlapping them wherever the letters match. If you put two "across" words next to each other, every place the words touch must make "down" words as well. Number the first box for each word.

Review your grid to make sure it is as small as you can make it and still fit the words in. Add a few short words that do not fit with your theme, to plump up the puzzle and fill in some of the blank spaces between theme words.

The completed puzzle.

Outline your grid, and color all the empty spaces black. This is what your puzzle will look like when it has been completed. Carefully copy your grid (including the black spaces and the numbers, but without the letters) to a fresh sheet of graph paper.

The list of clues.

Create the clues. Using the numbers in the puzzle, make two lists: one for "across" clues, and one for "down" clues. For the theme words, make sure the clues are personal enough for the recipient to understand. (For example, if the answer is "Nirvana," the clue could be "Your favorite band when you were in college.") For the filler words, use dictionary definitions if you can't think of clever clues.

Check your puzzle again to make sure the clues match up with the correct numbers, and that there are the appropriate number of spaces for each answer before you give it to the intended recipient. There's nothing more frustrating than a puzzle that doesn't work!

About the Author

Alexis Vega-Singer has been an editor for ten years, doing general copyediting and developmental and production editing for ESL textbooks. She has an A.M. from Harvard in Greek and Latin Philology.