How to Solve a Diagramless Crossword Puzzle

By Hobbies, Games & Toys Editor
An acrostic is a cousin of the crossword puzzle but is solved in two steps.

Diagramless crossword puzzles seem impossible until you know the two secrets to solving them--the clue numbers and the symmetry. With a little practice, any crossword lover can solve a diagramless puzzle. Take a deep breath and follow these steps to give these challenging puzzles a try. Read on to learn how.

Use a sheet of graph paper. Most diagramless crosswords provide a grid to work in; but you will need to erase less often if you have a larger grid.

Check the dimensions of the puzzle. This is given to you by the cruciverbalist (the maker of the crossword puzzle). Without drawing the border, imagine that the puzzle is going to be centered on the page and put the first square at the upper left. For instance, if the puzzle is 16 by 16, count up from the center eight squares and to the left eight squares. This is going to be square 1.

Read the first across clue. Write down the answer and blacken in the square immediately to the right. Number all these squares. For instance, if the first answer is 5 letters long, each answer square will be numbered 1 through 5. The next square will be blackened.

Solve down clues one through five. Every square across may not correspond to a clue.

Check the answers you entered for the down clues against the across clues. You will find that the letters correspond to an answer on an across clue. Mark the square with the appropriate number, fill in the answer and blacken the next square.

Repeat this process, solving as many across clues as you can and blackening the appropriate squares. Don't forget to number the squares appropriately.

Move to the next block of answers. Eventually the right-most letters from the across clues will suggest the answer to a down clue that begins on the first row. Now you know where the first square for the second across clue is located.

Repeat this process until you come to the end of the first row. You may find that the first answer square does not actually start at the top left corner of the grid. Now you can blacken the rest of the squares on the first row.

Turn your graph paper 180 degrees. Every diagramless puzzle is diagonally symmetrical. Repeat the pattern of answer squares and blackened squares on the bottom row. When you turn the paper back to its original position, the bottom row will be the reverse of the top row.

Put the answers to the last few across clues into the appropriate squares on the bottom row.

Continue in this manner, using the letters you filled in for across clues to figure out where the answers for the down clues go. Blacken a square at the end of each answer. Remember to fill in the blackened squares at the bottom of the grid so the puzzle remains diagonally symmetrical.


If you want a head start in solving a diagramless puzzle, let the cruciverbalist tell you which is the starting square.