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Crossword Puzzle Creation Guidelines

Home: Crosswords

Creating a Crossword

Creating a good crossword is no easy task, but we have opened up crossword creation to most authors. Don't be discouraged if your first efforts are sent back for more work as once you get the hang of it you will find creating crosswords is a lot of fun. Crossword creation is challenging! The whole idea of a crossword puzzle is to get players scratching their heads. At the same time, all crosswords should be answerable. Authors make crosswords easier to solve by crossing answers with one another, therefore revealing parts of other answers. FunTrivia requires that all crosswords fill at least 60% of the grid with answers. That is, only 40% of the squares at most may be black. We encourage authors to go above and beyond this. The more words that you can cross the better! Please take your time, cross what you can, and try to think up fun clues.

PLEASE NOTE: Only one crossword may be submitted/created by an author at a time!

The Grid

  • The grid must be at least 60% filled by letter cells. The system will not allow a grid to be submitted for Editor approval unless it meets this basic requirement.
  • 60% fill leaves a great many black cells; ideally we would look for as few of these as possible and may return a crossword asking for words to be inserted in certain places.
  • The grid may not contain islands of letter cells. An island is a group of words which are not connected in any way to the rest of the puzzle. This is, effectively, two separate crossword puzzles.
  • Published crosswords are, for the most part, symmetrical, but because FunTrivia is an international site and we welcome themed crosswords from our members, we do not enforce symmetry in our puzzles.
  • However, you are welcome to have a go! A hint here is to create your pattern first, and then fill it with words.
  • Symmetrical puzzles can be heavy or light on crossing letters, but they must still follow the 50% preferred crossing rule.
  • Each time you add a word to the grid, check to see if you have created a two- or three-letter word elsewhere, and if so, work on this word before any other. It happens that very short words are shown on the grid but have not got corresponding clues because they have been overlooked.
  • These are letters which are common to two words, one across and one down. Editors are looking for at least half the letters in a word being crossed. Having few crossing letters can make it difficult for a player to complete the puzzle and in most cases this can be avoided.
  • Long words at the edge of a grid causes problems in this area. If you have long words and put them in your grid first, it would be better to put them on the second or third line in, or even across the middle of the puzzle. This way words can be added in both directions.
  • These are words with only one crossing letter, and are NOT allowed. Two letter words are allowed, sparingly, but MUST have both letters crossed. When calculating the number of crossing words, we like to round up for odd length words. Two, three and four letter words need two crossing word; five and six letter words need three; seven and eight letter words need four and so on.
  • There are only so many words on a limited theme, so there may come a time when you need to pick a non-themed word to fill in a space. We would rather you added a few of these than have large black spaces in your puzzle.
  • Sometimes it is possible to work the clue into the theme, even if the word itself is not directly connected to it.
  • If a puzzle has too many non-themed words/clues, it may be rejected, or moved to the General category.
  • A puzzle cannot contain the same answer more than once.


  • The system will not accept a long clue, so you must keep them as short and concise as possible.
  • In normal circumstances you are not writing questions; these are not quizzes.
  • After entering a word and its clue, check to make sure it has not been cut off. If it has lost part of it, rewrite it before moving on so you do not forget to do it later.
  • As with quizzes, spellings must be accurate.
  • A spelling mistake within the grid can cause big problems with correcting, so be very careful.
  • The first word of each clue must be capitalized, as should proper nouns and names.
  • The Introduction (first page of template) must follow the basic rules of grammar, spelling and punctuation. (Save your puzzle after entering this, and before launching the puzzle builder.)
  • All titles, quotes etc. should be in inverted commas with appropriate capitalization.
  • Missing words in a phrase etc. should be indicated by three underscores.
  • If you are asking for a first or last name, the clue should suggest this.
    Actor related to Kennedy = LAWFORD
    Jacqueline's husband = JOHN
    She married Lenny Henry (2 words) = DAWN FRENCH
  • If the answer is an abbreviation, this must be clearly understood in the clue: Delivery Co. = FEDEX
  • Worldwide (abbr.) = INTL (short for 'international')
  • If the clue indicates an abbreviation, the answer must be an abbreviation.
  • No significant word in the answer should appear in the clue. For example, the clue "Popular doll" cannot point to the answer BARBIE DOLL because it contains one of the words.
  • Also to be noted here are 'giveaway clues' such as European Union (abbr.) = EU which would be rejected, because all the player need do is copy the initials from the clue.
  • If the answer is longer than one word, this must be clearly understood in the clue:
    Kermit's friend (2 words) = MISS PIGGY
    Dr Who's journalist companion (3 wds) = SARAH JANE SMITH
    World's smallest country (7, 4) = VATICAN CITY
    All of these variations suffice, but it is better to choose one style and be consistent.
  • English spelling can vary from country to country, and often using different spellings in a crossword helps fill the grid. If this happens with your work and you have a mixture of spellings, please add "(AUS)", "(CAN)", "(UK)", "(US)" etc. to the clue.
  • Some of our Crossword compilers do this as a matter of course in order to cut down on Correction Notes; you may like to do the same.
  • These crosswords contain the only exceptions to the above rules. If you are writing a cryptic clue and breaking a grammar rule in the process, there must be a reason for the strange spelling, lack of capital letters etc.
  • Cryptic clues are difficult to write. Please attempt other crossword creation first.

Occasionally an editor might allow an exception to these guidelines, given a good reason.

Finally, have fun! Share your creativity with the world!