Constructing puzzles

A place to hang out, get to know other Muggles and discuss everything under the sun.
Post Reply
User avatar
FrankieHeck
Posts: 300
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 8:57 pm
Location: West Virginia

Constructing puzzles

#1

Post by FrankieHeck » Fri Nov 01, 2019 3:31 pm

Can I just take a moment to tip my proverbial hat to anyone on this forum who actually writes crossword puzzles? And to Matt, Mike, Pete, and Peter (and anyone else) who can also throw a meta in there, week after week? I'm getting pretty good at solving crosswords, so I thought it would be fun to make one for my Dad for Christmas and fill it with some personalized words and phrases. Holy cow, am I terrible at this. I bought Patrick Berry's handbook, which is amazing, but actually putting that stuff into practice is hard!

If I ever again complain about someone's puzzle, please kick me.

User avatar
BrianMac
Site Admin
Posts: 255
Joined: Mon Apr 08, 2019 11:45 pm
Location: Connecticut

#2

Post by BrianMac » Fri Nov 01, 2019 4:08 pm

I banged by head against a wall on and off for nearly 10 years trying to construct a crossword puzzle. Every few months I would give it a try over the course of a weekend and then quit in frustration, vowing to never try again. Then someone tipped me off that all but the most hard-core pros use commercially available software. There are two main programs -- the most popular are Crossword Compiler (for PC) and CrossFire (for Mac). Both are about $50.

Once I decided to get serious, I tried both and found CrossFire much more user-friendly. I also joined Cruciverb ($40/year), which has an excellent and easily searchable database for looking up past puzzles and theme entries. It also has a helpful page on constructing tips (you do not need to be member to access the tips). Finally, I ponied up about $200 for Jeff Chen's word list. The Patrick Berry Book is also invaluable.

All of this was a moderate investment, and it took a full year of effort and 15 rejections, but the end result was finally worth it! It was a great experience start to finish and I encourage anyone who is interested to go for it! I am far from an expert, but I would be happy to help with any tips or I look at draft puzzles or theme ideas.

User avatar
FrankieHeck
Posts: 300
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 8:57 pm
Location: West Virginia

#3

Post by FrankieHeck » Fri Nov 01, 2019 4:18 pm

BrianMac wrote:
Fri Nov 01, 2019 4:08 pm
All of this was a moderate investment, and it took a full year of effort and 15 rejections, but the end result was finally worth it! It was a great experience start to finish and I encourage anyone who is interested to go for it! I am far from an expert, but I would be happy to help with any tips or I look at draft puzzles or theme ideas.
Look at you!! That's awesome!

User avatar
FrankieHeck
Posts: 300
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 8:57 pm
Location: West Virginia

#4

Post by FrankieHeck » Fri Nov 01, 2019 4:38 pm

Thanks for all the tips, Brian! I was planning to invest in some of those resources eventually, but as I am now convinced that I will never be able to pull off a publishable crossword, I think I'll just try to cobble together something Dad-worthy. I've been trying to use the free "Sparkling Fill" website for this one.

My mom was SUCH an avid crossword puzzler solver, and got one published (with Vic Fleming) in Games magazine in 2006, not long before she passed away. She was so incredibly happy to have been able to do that. I was impressed at the time, but I wasn't solving puzzles then, and so I didn't appreciate just what an achievement it was!

User avatar
BarbaraK
Posts: 351
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 2:37 pm
Location: Virginia

#5

Post by BarbaraK » Fri Nov 01, 2019 4:46 pm

BrianMac wrote:
Fri Nov 01, 2019 4:08 pm
I banged by head against a wall on and off for nearly 10 years trying to construct a crossword puzzle. Every few months I would give it a try over the course of a weekend and then quit in frustration, vowing to never try again. Then someone tipped me off that all but the most hard-core pros use commercially available software. There are two main programs -- the most popular are Crossword Compiler (for PC) and CrossFire (for Mac). Both are about $50.

Once I decided to get serious, I tried both and found CrossFire much more user-friendly. I also joined Cruciverb ($40/year), which has an excellent and easily searchable database for looking up past puzzles and theme entries. It also has a helpful page on constructing tips (you do not need to be member to access the tips). Finally, I ponied up about $200 for Jeff Chen's word list. The Patrick Berry Book is also invaluable.

All of this was a moderate investment, and it took a full year of effort and 15 rejections, but the end result was finally worth it! It was a great experience start to finish and I encourage anyone who is interested to go for it! I am far from an expert, but I would be happy to help with any tips or I look at draft puzzles or theme ideas.
That's so cool!!! Congratulations!

User avatar
Al Sisti
Posts: 213
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2019 1:28 pm
Location: Whitesboro NY

#6

Post by Al Sisti » Sat Nov 02, 2019 6:08 pm

I echo that... and some nice feedback too! I think I speak for all of us when I say that I'd love to see a puzzle from you that we Muggles could have a crack at.

GlennG
Posts: 63
Joined: Thu Aug 08, 2019 12:48 am

#7

Post by GlennG » Sat Nov 02, 2019 6:48 pm

There's all kind of good resources there, even free ones. To that point, I'm sitting on a lot of constructor's resources that I've made (like word lists), including some major pieces of code - the problem is always time in terms of turning it into something (namely the editor I want to do). The biggest problem is the grid editor widget at the moment (namely "auto-fill" stuff), but need to find an elegant way to link clue editing into the grid. Then a lot of bug fixing from there... Unfortunately, needing to find stuff to do that pays me money has taken much more precedence over finishing things.

Unfortunately, it can be quite hard to sketch a path out of some of the resources. I've seen Patrick Berry's book, but there's still too much "draw the rest of the @#@# owl" there. Or when I ask about how to fill a grid (the part I'm most clueless about doing from all the stuff I've seen), the answer is usually "get the software". Still a use to know how to do things (think mathematics versus calculators), especially since I want to teach the software I'm working on to fill the grid more than just turn out grids at this point.

As for metas, it's nothing different than a standard theme. There's a certain amount of creativity to it, but all a constructor does is start with the theme and then work around it. There's no "wow factor" to it from a constructing end of things.

Post Reply