How to Make a Hand Drawn Crossword Puzzle

By Deb Powers
A crossword puzzle, a grid, squares
pen in hand and crossword image by Nikolai Sorokin from

If there's anything more satisfying than completing a tough crossword puzzle, it's creating your own puzzle. Creating crossword puzzles for publications require highly specialized skills and must follow fairly strict rules of composition in designing the crossword puzzle grid. Creating a hand-drawn crossword puzzle challenges you to work with many skill sets because you'll need to combine visual, spatial and verbal talents to work out an interlocking, symmetrical pattern for your puzzle.

Measure and draw a 6-inch square on the paper using a pen or marker.

Make a small dot every 1/4 inch along the top and bottom lines of the square. Draw the vertical lines for the crossword grid by connecting sets of dots on the top and bottom.

Mark the horizontal lines for the grid in the same way, making the 1/4 inch marks on both sides of the square. Your grid measures 24 by 24 squares. Standard crossword sizes are 15 by 15, 17 by 17, 19 by 19, 21 by 21 and 23 by 23, so decide on your size and mark off that area of the grid to use in your design.

Decide where to place your longest word and mark off the square before and after the word with a lightly penciled dot. Find the same squares in the opposite quadrant of the puzzle and mark them off. Keep in mind that crossword puzzles are diagonally symmetrical: if you place a mark in the second square from the right on the bottom, you need a mark in the second square from the left on the top.

Work outward from your main words, penciling out squares to create a symmetrical pattern of penciled out squares.

Number the squares starting in the upper left hand corner. Place a sequential number in each square that will begin a word in either direction. Work in pencil until you complete the entire puzzle so that you can erase if needed. Make a copy of your blank squares before you start filling in the words.

Fill in the longest words in your puzzle first, then begin filling in smaller words around them. Make sure that anywhere two letters meet, the two letters are part of another word. Consult a crossword puzzle dictionary if needed to help find more obscure words to fill in.

Write out definitions for each word you entered into your crossword puzzle.

About the Author

Deb Powers is an avid urban gardener who works with a community collective to promote sustainable urban agriculture and build partnerships between local business owners and community organizations. Powers serves as a social media and marketing consultant for local non-profits and businesses, and is collaborating with a coffee roaster to publish a cookbook highlighting coffee as a culinary ingredient.