Let’s see what would happen if we made that a 10-letter “bonus word.” A bonus word is a nontheme entry that’s comparable in length to the theme entries. Because of the consonant-heavy nature of the English language, it helps to have consonants doing double duty: If you have JACOB in your grid going across, better to place black squares so the word crossing it begins with J, rather than ends with J. STEINBERG: Now is also a good time to mention a couple more rules. Determine the layout of your crossword puzzle and write down its length and height. Then, make a word list with an answer and a clue on each line. This is a solid entry, just like PUZZLE PIECE, because the sense of “track” changes, and it does so in a way that takes us far from the original meaning of “track.” I will note, however, that the sense of “tenure” does not change. VIGELAND: Can’t wait to see how this puzzle gets built up by the next team. STEINBERG: Before we do that, though, let’s back up a little. Even though The New York Times publishes a wide variety of constructors and themes, there are striking similarities between grids by day of week. And which software do you use? I’m not sure yet how we might draw a connection, but there is potential here! DEB AMLEN: In Part 1 of “How to Make a Crossword Puzzle,” the puzzle makers Ben Tausig and Finn Vigeland developed a theme for a crossword puzzle by bouncing ideas back and forth until a cohesive set that follows the rules of constructing came together. We might, for example, clue this as “Song for when you match someone’s poker bet?” That makes sense, and yet it’s utterly distant from a CALL NUMBER in a library. LAST: O.K., O.K., I’ll take three orders of the software, and a Shamwow to boot. “How to Make a Crossword Puzzle” is a response to reader questions about how constructors move from an idea to a completed puzzle that is ready for submission. Let’s watch them work it out. This is where we’re trying to set up our next pair of constructors — the ones who will complete the filling of the puzzle — for success. All it takes is a few guiding principles and lots of practice. Note that Finn put the name of the theme-answer-to-be, TRIXIE MATTEL, in all-caps, which is a common convention. To make a consistent theme from this, we would need to find at least three phrases with the name of a game company in them. As a reminder, those entries, with their letter counts in parentheses, are: LAST: Black squares will be placed after our theme answers to separate them from other entries. TAUSIG: Yes! A third, brand-new option is Keiran King’s free, web-based crossword construction program, Phil. VIGELAND: That’s a nice idea, and I’m definitely laughing at the idea of a “mac book” to buy one’s raincoats, but that would be inconsistent with our other themes, which don’t split up the non-song word. The heart of most daily crossword puzzles. STEINBERG: Me too! Follow him on Twitter at @datageneral. Starting Without a Template. I just enter “*NUMBER” in the query and a whole lot of phrases pop up. TAUSIG: TRIXIE MATTEL is a great spark, but I can already see a limitation. LAST: We should probably stick to basics, though, so here’s what we’ll do. All Rights Reserved. In a themed puzzle, the theme anchors the grid. There are many ways to make a puzzle, of course, but this series will highlight the basics.
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