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Anybody looking to hone their xword construction skills?

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2020 3:18 am
by anjhinz
For the past week or so, I've been "practicing" my crossword construction and cluing skills by writing mini-puzzles featuring Merriam-Websters "Word of the Day" as the marquee entry. They are VERY mini (11x11 at the largest, some just 7x7), but that's kind of the point. I wanted to be able to work on "the fundamentals" - honing constructing skills, exploring the various software options, and strengthening clueing muscles without the start-up barrier of needing a great theme, or the intimidation of an empty 15x15 grid mocking me on the screen. Building grids around whatever M-W chose at their Word of the Day not only provides a basic scaffold (and sometimes challenging letter placements) to build a grid around, but it also gives the puzzle a raison d'ĂȘtre, which (at least for the past few days) has been enough of a motivation to keep at it.

I set up a barebones Wordpress site to host the puzzles if anyone is interested in checking them out at (please excuse any mistakes or typos - there's no editor or second set of eyes on these, and I've been doing them when I can't sleep in the middle of the night [hence the timestamp on this post], so there are probably some errors hahaha! The editing process is basically "Did I clue every answer? Yes? OK. Publish and back to bed").

If anybody is interested in contributing to this project, send me a PM! I'd love to have this be a community-driven site for all of us to just get puzzles OUT THERE without worrying about the editorial process, and to also have it be an approachable outlet for ANYONE who has the desire to construct puzzles, but is justifiably intimidated by a) first coming up with a solid theme, and b) how much more difficult it truly is to fill a 15x15 or larger grid well.

I also think this is a fun way and low-stakes way to experiment with bending some of the usual crossword guidelines - for example, in the puzzles I've been writing, I've sprinkled in a few Cryptic-style clues (marked with enumerations), mostly because they are extremely fun to come up with, but also because could be a gentle way to introduce the Cryptic-style clues to people who are intimidated by them - since they should be easier to suss out by solving the crosses.

The solving plugin I found also makes it easy to share your puzzles with friends and loved ones if you want to show off your work ;)

Anyways, it's late, I should try to get some sleep, but if you have ANY interest in this project at all, let me know!

Re: Anybody looking to hone their xword construction skills?

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2020 7:39 pm
by C=64
I just powered through all of the puzzles. I'd classify them as "midis", which I prefer to minis. The word of the day is a nice raison d'etre. Fun!

Re: Anybody looking to hone their xword construction skills?

Posted: Tue Nov 10, 2020 10:43 pm
by Abide
I found this blog post incredibly instructive: ... -paul.html

Re: Anybody looking to hone their xword construction skills?

Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2020 11:38 pm
by MajordomoTom
wife gave me "Thinking Inside the Box" last week for my 57th, am close to half way through the book.

nice history of where crossword puzzles (Word-Cross at the first) came from, a bit of a digression into a puzzle she constructed which the NYT rejected, and then more history of them.

Matt G gets one shout-out - his article about how to distinguish between copying a theme and outright plagiarism. Not anything that I can see about metas in the book.