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A crossword is a word puzzle that normally takes the form of a square or a rectangular grid of white and black shaded squares. The goal is to fill the white squares with letters, forming words or phrases, by solving clues which lead to the answers. In languages that are written left-to-right, the answer words and phrases are placed in the grid from left to right and from top to bottom. The shaded squares are used to separate the words or phrases.
The horizontal and vertical lines of white cells into which answers are written are commonly called entries or answers. The clues are usually called just that, or sometimes definitions. White cells are sometimes called lights, while the shaded cells are sometimes called darks, blanks, blocks, or just simply black squares or shaded squares.
Squares in which answers begin are usually numbered. The clues are then referred to by these numbers and a direction, for example, "4-Across" or "20-Down". At the end of the clue the total number of letters is sometimes given, depending on the style of puzzle and country of publication. Some crosswords will also indicate the number of words in a given answer, should there be more than one.
A white cell that is part of two entries (both Across and Down) is called checked, keyed, or crossed. A white cell that is part of only one entry is called unchecked, unkeyed, or uncrossed.
The creating of crosswords is called cruciverbalism among its practitioners, who are referred to as cruciverbalists, from the Latin for cross and word. Although the terms have existed since the mid-1970s, non-cruciverbalists rarely use them, calling crossword creators constructors or (especially outside the United States) setters or compilers.
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Crossword grids such as those appearing in most North American newspapers and magazines feature solid areas of white squares. Every letter is checked, and usually each answer is required to contain at least three letters. In such puzzles shaded squares are traditionally limited to about one-sixth of the design. Crossword grids elsewhere, such as in Britain, South Africa, India and Australia, have a lattice-like structure, with a higher percentage of shaded squares, leaving up to half the letters in an answer unchecked. For example, if the top row has an answer running all the way across, there will be no across answers in the second row.
Another tradition in puzzle design (in North America, India, and Britain particularly) is that the grid should have 180-degree rotational (also known as "radial") symmetry, so that its pattern appears the same if the paper is turned upside down. Most puzzle designs also require that all white cells be orthogonally contiguous (that is, connected in one mass through shared sides, to form a single polyomino).
The design of Japanese crossword grids often follows two additional rules: that shaded cells may not share a side (i.e., that they may not be orthogonally contiguous) and that the corner squares must be white.
The "Swedish-Style" grid (picture crosswords) uses no clue numbers, as the clues are contained in the cells which would normally be shaded in other countries. Arrows indicate in which direction the clues have to be answered, vertical or horizontal. This style of grid is used in several countries other than Sweden, usually in magazines with pages of A4 or similar size, but also in the daily newspapers, covering entire pages. The grid often has one or more photos replacing a block of squares as a clue to one or several answers, for example, the name of a pop star, or some kind of rhyme or phrase that can be associated with the photo. These puzzles usually have no symmetry in the grid and instead often rely on a common theme (literature, music, nature, geography, events of a special year, etc.) as the foundation of the combination of illustrated clues and other blocks of clues.
Substantial variants from the usual forms exist. Two of the common ones are barred crosswords, which use bold lines between squares (instead of shaded squares) to separate answers, and circular designs, with answers entered either radially or in concentric circles. Free form crosswords (criss-cross puzzles), which have simple, asymmetric designs, are often seen on school worksheets, kids' menus, and other entertainment for children. Grids forming shapes other than squares are also occasionally used.
Puzzles are often one of several standard sizes. For example, many weekday puzzles (such as the American New York Times crossword puzzle) are 15×15 squares, while weekend puzzles may be 21×21, 23×23, or 25×25. The New York Times puzzles also set a common pattern for American crosswords by increasing in difficulty throughout the week: the Monday puzzles are the easiest and the puzzles get harder until Saturday. The larger Sunday puzzle is approximately the same level of difficulty as a weekday-size Thursday puzzle. This has led U.S. solvers to use the day of the week as a shorthand when describing how hard a puzzle is: i.e., an easy puzzle may be referred to as a Monday or Tuesday, a medium-difficulty puzzle as a Wednesday, and a truly difficult puzzle as a Saturday. One of the smallest crosswords in general distribution is a 4×4 crossword compiled daily by John Wilmes, distributed online by USA Today as "QuickCross" and by Universal Uclick as "PlayFour."
Typically clues appear outside the grid, divided into an Across list and a Down list; the first cell of each entry contains a number referenced by the clue lists. For example, the answer to a clue labeled "17-Down" is entered with the first letter in the cell numbered "17", proceeding down from there. Numbers are almost never repeated; numbered cells are labeled consecutively, usually from left to right across each row, starting with the top row and proceeding downward. Some Japanese crosswords are numbered from top to bottom down each column, starting with the leftmost column and proceeding right.
Capitalization of answer letters is conventionally ignored; crossword puzzles are typically filled in, and their answer sheets are almost universally published in all caps, except in the rare cases of ambigrams. This ensures a proper name can have its initial capital letter checked with a non-capitalizable letter in the intersecting clue. Diacritical markings in foreign loanwords (or foreign-language words appearing in English-language puzzles) are ignored for similar reasons.
Some crossword clues, called straight or quick clues, are simple definitions of the answers. Some clues may feature anagrams, and these are usually explicitly described as such. Often, a straight clue is not in itself sufficient to distinguish between several possible answers (often synonyms), so the solver must make use of checks to establish the correct answer with certainty. For example, the answer to the clue "PC key" for a three-letter answer could be ESC, ALT, TAB, DEL, or INS, so until a check is filled in, giving at least one of the letters, the correct answer cannot be determined.
In most American-style crosswords, the majority of the clues in the puzzle are straight clues, with the remainder being one of the other types described below.
Crossword clues are generally consistent with the solutions. For instance, clues and their solutions should always agree in tense, number, and degree. If a clue is in the past tense, so is the answer: thus "Traveled on horseback" would be a valid clue for the solution RODE, but not for RIDE. Similarly, "Family members" would be a valid clue for AUNTS but not UNCLE, while "More joyful" could clue HAPPIER but not HAPPIEST.
Some clue examples:
In the hands of any but the most skilled constructors, the constraints of the American-style grid (in which every letter is checked) usually require a fair number of answers not to be dictionary words. As a result, the following ways to clue abbreviations and other non-words, although they can be found in "straight" British crosswords, are much more common in American ones:
Many American crossword puzzles feature a "theme" consisting of a number of long entries (generally three to five in a standard 15×15-square "weekday-size" puzzle) that share some relationship, type of pun, or other element in common. As an example, the New York Times crossword of April 26, 2005 by Sarah Keller, edited by Will Shortz, featured five themed entries ending in the different parts of a tree: SQUAREROOT, TABLELEAF, WARDROBETRUNK, BRAINSTEM, and BANKBRANCH.
The above is an example of a category theme, where the theme elements are all members of the same set. Other types of themes include:
The Simon & Schuster Crossword Puzzle Series has published many unusual themed crosswords. "Rosetta Stone", by Sam Bellotto Jr., incorporates a Caesar cipher cryptogram as the theme; the key to breaking the cipher is the answer to 1 Across. Another unusual theme requires the solver to use the answer to a clue as another clue. The answer to that clue is the real solution.
Many puzzles feature clues involving wordplay which are to be taken metaphorically or in some sense other than their literal meaning, requiring some form of lateral thinking. Depending on the puzzle creator or the editor, this might be represented either with a question mark at the end of the clue or with a modifier such as "maybe" or "perhaps". In more difficult puzzles, the indicator may be omitted, increasing ambiguity between a literal meaning and a wordplay meaning. Examples:
In cryptic crosswords (often called "cryptics",or in the UK, simple, "crosswords)), the clues are puzzles in themselves. A typical clue contains both a definition at the beginning or end of the clue and wordplay, which provides a way to manufacture the word indicated by the definition, and which may not parse logically. Cryptics usually give the length of their answers in parentheses after the clue, which is especially useful with multi-word answers. Certain signs indicate different forms of wordplay. Cryptics have a steeper learning curve than standard crosswords, as learning to interpret the different types of cryptic clues can take some practice. In Great Britain and throughout much of the Commonwealth, cryptics of varying degrees of difficulty are featured in many newspapers.
There are several types of wordplay used in cryptics. One is straightforward definition substitution using parts of a word. For example, in one puzzle by Mel Taub, the answer IMPORTANT is given the clue "To bring worker into the country may prove significant". The explanation is that to import means "to bring into the country", the "worker" is a worker ant, and "significant" means important. Here, "significant" is the straight definition (appearing here at the end of the clue), "to bring worker into the country" is the wordplay definition, and "may prove" serves to link the two. Note that in a cryptic clue, there is almost always only one answer that fits both the definition and the wordplay, so that when one sees the answer, one knows that it is the right answer—although it can sometimes be a challenge to figure out why it is the right answer. A good cryptic clue should provide a fair and exact definition of the answer, while at the same time being deliberately misleading.
Another type of wordplay used in cryptics is the use of homophones. For example, the clue "A few, we hear, add up (3)" is the clue for SUM. The straight definition is "add up", meaning "totalize". The solver must guess that "we hear" indicates a homophone, and so a homophone of a synonym of "A few" ("some") is the answer. Other words relating to sound or hearing can be used to signal the presence of a homophone clue (e.g., "aloud", "audibly", "in conversation", etc.).
The double meaning is commonly used as another form of wordplay. For example, "Cat's tongue (7)" is solved by PERSIAN, since this is a type of cat, as well as a tongue, or language. This is the only type of cryptic clue without wordplay—both parts of the clue are a straight definition.
Cryptics often include anagrams, as well. The clue "Ned T.'s seal cooked is rather bland (5,4)" is solved by NEEDS SALT. The straight definition is "is rather bland", and the word "cooked" is a hint to the solver that this clue is an anagram (the letters have been "cooked", or jumbled up). Ignoring all punctuation, "Ned T.'s seal" is an anagram for NEEDS SALT. Besides "cooked", other common hints that the clue contains an anagram are words such as "scrambled", "mixed up", "confused", "baked" or "twisted".
Embedded words are another common trick in cryptics. The clue "Bigotry aside, I'd take him (9)" is solved by APARTHEID. The straight definition is "bigotry", and the wordplay explains itself, indicated by the word "take" (since one word "takes" another): "aside" means APART and I'd is simply ID, so APART and ID "take" HE (which is, in cryptic crossword usage, a perfectly good synonym for "him"). The answer could be elucidated as APART(HE)ID.
Another common clue type is the "hidden clue" or "container", where the answer is hidden in the text of the clue itself. For example, "Made a dug-out, buried, and passed away (4)" is solved by DEAD. The answer is written in the clue: "maDE A Dug-out". "Buried" indicates that the answer is embedded within the clue.
There are numerous other forms of wordplay found in cryptic clues. Backwards words can be indicated by words like "climbing", "retreating", or "ascending" (depending on whether it is an across clue or a down clue) or by directional indicators such as "going North" (meaning upwards) or "West" (right-to-left); letters can be replaced or removed with indicators such as "nothing rather than excellence" (meaning replace E in a word with O); the letter I can be indicated by "me" or "one;" the letter O can be indicated by "nought", "nothing", "zero", or "a ring" (since it visually resembles one); the letter X might be clued as "a cross", or "ten" (as in the Roman numeral), or "an illiterate's signature", or "sounds like your old flame" (homophone for "ex"). "Senselessness" is solved by "e", because "e" is what remains after removing (less) "ness" from "sense".
With the different types of wordplay and definition possibilities, the composer of a cryptic puzzle is presented with many different possible ways to clue a given answer. Most desirable are clues that are clean but deceptive, with a smooth surface reading (that is, the resulting clue looks as natural a phrase as possible). The Usenet newsgroup rec.puzzles.crosswords has a number of clueing competitions where contestants all submit clues for the same word and a judge picks the best one.
In principle, each cryptic clue is usually sufficient to define its answer uniquely, so it should be possible to answer each clue without use of the grid. In practice, the use of checks is an important aid to the solver.
In the 'Quick' crossword in the Daily Telegraph newspaper (Sunday and Daily, UK), it has become a convention also to make the first few words (usually two or three, but can be more) into a phrase. For example, "Dimmer, Allies" would make "Demoralise" or "You, ill, never, walk, alone" would become "You'll never walk alone". This generally aids solvers in that if they have one of the words then they can attempt to guess the phrase. This has also become popular among other British newspapers.
Sometimes newspapers publish one grid that can be filled by solving either of two lists of clues - usually a straight and a cryptic. The solutions given by the two lists may be different, in which case the solver must decide at the outset which list they are going to follow, or the solutions may be identical, in which case the straight clues offer additional help for a solver having difficulty with the cryptic clues. For example, the solution APARTHEID might be clued as "Bigotry aside, I'd take him (9)" in the cryptic list, and "Racial separation (9)" in the straight list. Usually the straight clue matches the straight part of the cryptic clue, but this is not necessarily the case.
Every issue of GAMES Magazine contains a large crossword with a double clue list, under the title The World's Most Ornery Crossword; both lists are straight and arrive at the same solution, but one list is significantly more challenging than the other. The solver is prompted to fold a page in half, showing the grid and the hard clues; the easy clues are tucked inside the fold, to be referenced if the solver gets stuck.
A variant of the double-clue list is commonly called Siamese Twins: two matching grids are provided, and the two clue lists are merged such that the two clues for each entry are displayed together in random order. Determining which clue is to be applied to which grid is part of the puzzle.
Any type of puzzle may contain cross-references, where the answer to one clue forms part of another clue, in which it is referred to by number and direction. E.g., a puzzle might have 1-Across clued as "Central character in The Lord of the Rings" = FRODO, with 17-Down clued as "Precious object for 1-Across" = RING.
When an answer is composed of multiple or hyphenated words, some crosswords (especially in Britain) indicate the structure of the answer. For example, "(3,5)" after a clue indicates that the answer is composed of a three-letter word followed by a five-letter word. Most American-style crosswords do not provide this information.
Here is a small example of a regular crossword, to illustrate the format:
1. Sheep sound (3)
3. Neither liquid nor gas (5)
5. Humour (3)
1. Road passenger transport (3)
2. To permit (5)
4. Shortened form of Dorothy (3)
The solution to this crossword is:
A set of cryptic clues that provide the same answers as above might be:
1. Start of announcement by British Airways sounds woolly? (3)
3. I sold out for real (5)
5. Wilde's intelligence (3)
1. Ferry sees submarine rising (3)
2. Now without its initial after every warrant (5)
4. Do time? There's a point (3)
How the clues work:
These are common crossword variants that vary more from a regular crossword than just an unusual grid shape or unusual clues; these crossword variants may be based on different solving principles and require a different solving skill set.
Published under various trade names (including Code Breakers, Code Crackers, and Kaidoku), and not to be confused with cryptic crosswords (ciphertext puzzles are commonly known as cryptograms), a cipher crossword replaces the clues for each entry with clues for each white cell of the grid - an integer from 1 to 26 inclusive is printed in the corner of each. The objective, as any other crossword, is to determine the proper letter for each cell; in a cipher crossword, the 26 numbers serve as a cipher for those letters: cells that share matching numbers are filled with matching letters, and no two numbers stand for the same letter. All resultant entries must be valid words. Usually, at least one number's letter is given at the outset. English-language cipher crosswords are nearly always pangrammatic (all letters of the alphabet appear in the solution). As these puzzles are closer to codes than quizzes, they require a different skillset; many basic cryptographic techniques, such as determining likely vowels, are key to solving these. Given their pangrammaticity, a frequent start point is locating where 'Q' and 'U' must appear.
In a diagramless crossword, often called a diagramless for short or, in the UK, a skeleton crossword or carte blanche, the grid offers overall dimensions, but the locations of most of the clue numbers and shaded squares are unspecified. A solver must deduce not only the answers to individual clues, but how to fit together partially built-up clumps of answers into larger clumps with properly-set shaded squares. Some of these puzzles follow the traditional symmetry rule, others have left-right mirror symmetry, and others have greater levels of symmetry or outlines suggesting other shapes. If the symmetry of the grid is given, the solver can use it to his/her advantage.
A variation is the Blankout puzzle in the Daily Mail Weekend magazine. The clues are not individually numbered, but given in terms of the rows and columns of the grid, which has rectangular symmetry. The list of clues gives hints of the locations of some of the shaded squares even before one starts solving them, e.g. there must be a shaded square where a row having no clues intersects a column having no clues.
A fill-in crossword (also known as crusadex or cruzadex) features a grid and the full list of words to be entered in that grid, but does not give explicit clues for where each word goes. The challenge is figuring out how to integrate the list of words together within the grid so that all intersections of words are valid. Fill-in crosswords may often have longer word length than regular crosswords to make the crossword easier to solve, and symmetry is often disregarded. Fitting together several long words is easier than fitting together several short words because there are fewer possibilities for how the long words intersect together.
A crossnumber (also known as a cross-figure) is the numerical analogy of a crossword, in which the solutions to the clues are numbers instead of words. Clues are usually arithmetical expressions, but can also be general knowledge clues to which the answer is a number or year. There are also numerical fill-in crosswords.
The Daily Mail Weekend magazine used to feature crossnumbers under the misnomer Number Word. This kind of puzzle should not be confused with a different puzzle that the Daily Mail refers to as Cross Number.
An acrostic is a type of word puzzle, in eponymous acrostic form, that typically consists of two parts. The first is a set of lettered clues, each of which has numbered blanks representing the letters of the answer. The second part is a long series of numbered blanks and spaces, representing a quotation or other text, into which the answers for the clues fit. In most forms of the puzzle, the first letters of each correct clue answer, read in order from clue A on down the list, will spell out the author of the quote and the title of the work it is taken from; this can be used as an additional solving aid.
The arroword is a variant of a crossword that does not have as many black squares as a true crossword, but has arrows inside the grid, with clues preceding the arrows. It has been called the most popular word puzzle in many European countries, and is often called the Scandinavian crossword, as it is believed to have originated in Sweden.
Crossword puzzles are said to be the most popular and widespread word game in the world, yet have a short history. The first crosswords appeared in England during the 19th century. They were of an elementary kind, apparently derived from the word square, a group of words arranged so the letters read alike vertically and horizontally, and printed in children's puzzle books and various periodicals.
Another crossword puzzle appeared on September 14, 1890, in the Italian magazine Il Secolo Illustrato della Domenica. It was designed by Giuseppe Airoldi and titled "Per passare il tempo" ("To pass the time"). Airoldi's puzzle was a four-by-four grid with no shaded squares; it included horizontal and vertical clues.
On December 21, 1913, Arthur Wynne, a journalist from Liverpool, England, published a "word-cross" puzzle in the New York World that embodied most of the features of the genre as we know it. This puzzle is frequently cited as the first crossword puzzle, and Wynne as the inventor. Later, the name of the puzzle was changed to "crossword".
By the 1920s, the crossword phenomenon was starting to attract notice. In 1921, the New York Public Library reported that "The latest craze to strike libraries is the crossword puzzle," and complained that when "the puzzle 'fans' swarm to the dictionaries and encyclopedias so as to drive away readers and students who need these books in their daily work, can there be any doubt of the Library's duty to protect its legitimate readers?" In October 1922, newspapers published a comic strip by Clare Briggs entitled "Movie of a Man Doing the Cross-Word Puzzle," with an enthusiast muttering "87 across 'Northern Sea Bird'!!??!?!!? Hm-m-m starts with an 'M', second letter is 'U'... I'll look up all the words starting with an 'M-U...' mus-musi-mur-murd--Hot Dog! Here 'tis! Murre!" In 1923 a humorous squib in The Boston Globe has a wife ordering her husband to run out and "rescue the papers... the part I want is blowing down the street." "What is it you're so keen about?" "The Cross-Word Puzzle. Hurry, please, that's a good boy." In The New Yorker's first issue, released in 1925, the "Jottings About Town" section wrote, "Judging from the number of solvers in the subway and "L" trains, the crossword puzzle bids fair to become a fad with New Yorkers." 
The first book of crossword puzzles appeared in 1924, published by Simon and Schuster. "This odd-looking book with a pencil attached to it" was an instant hit and crossword puzzles became the craze of 1924.
Initially, some viewed the crossword puzzle with alarm, and some expected (even hoped)[neutrality is disputed] that it would be a short-lived fad. In 1924, The New York Times complained of the "sinful waste in the utterly futile finding of words the letters of which will fit into a prearranged pattern, more or less complex. This is not a game at all, and it hardly can be called a sport... [solvers] get nothing out of it except a primitive form of mental exercise, and success or failure in any given attempt is equally irrelevant to mental development." A clergyman called the working of crossword puzzles "the mark of a childish mentality" and said, "There is no use for persons to pretend that working one of the puzzles carries any intellectual value with it.". In 1925, Time Magazine noted that nine Manhattan dailies and fourteen other big newspapers were carrying crosswords, and quoted opposing views as to whether "This crossword craze will positively end by June!" or "The crossword puzzle is here to stay!" In 1925, the New York Times noted, with approval, a scathing critique of crosswords by The New Republic; but concluded that "Fortunately, the question of whether the puzzles are beneficial or harmful is in no urgent need of an answer. The craze evidently is dying out fast and in a few months it will be forgotten." and in 1929 declared, "The cross-word puzzle, it seems, has gone the way of all fads...." In 1930, a correspondent noted that "Together with The Times of London, yours is the only journal of prominence that has never succumbed to the lure of the cross-word puzzle" and said that "The craze—the fad—stage has passed, but there are still people numbering it to the millions who look for their daily cross-word puzzle as regularly as for the weather predictions." The New York Times, however, was not to publish a crossword puzzle until 1942; today, the Times puzzle is one of the most popular in the country.
The term crossword first appeared in a dictionary in 1930.
Today, there are many popular crosswords distributed in American newspapers and online. The most prestigious (and among the most difficult to solve) are the New York Times puzzles. The first editor of the New York Times crossword was Margaret Farrar, who was editor from 1942 to 1969. She was succeeded by Will Weng, who was succeeded by Eugene T. Maleska. Since 1993, they have been edited by Will Shortz, the fourth crossword editor in Times. In 1978 Shortz founded and still directs the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.
Simon and Schuster continues to publish the Crossword Puzzle Book Series books that it began in 1924, currently under the editorship of John M. Samson. The original series ended in 2007 after 258 volumes. Since 2008, these books are now in the Mega series, appearing three times per year and each featuring 300 puzzles.
The British cryptic crossword was imported to the US in 1968 by composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim in New York magazine. Until 2006, the Atlantic Monthly regularly featured a cryptic crossword "puzzler" by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, which combines cryptic clues with diabolically ingenious variations on the construction of the puzzle itself. In both cases, no two puzzles are alike in construction, and the intent of the puzzle authors is to entertain with novelty, not to establish new variations of the crossword genre.
In the United Kingdom, the Sunday Express was the first newspaper to publish a crossword on November 2, 1924, a Wynne puzzle adapted for the UK. The first crossword in Britain, according to Tony Augarde in his Oxford Guide to Word Games (1984), was in Pearson's Magazine for February 1922.
In 1944, Allied security officers were disturbed by the appearance, in a series of crosswords in The Daily Telegraph, of words that were secret code names for military operations planned as part of Operation Overlord.
According to Guinness World Records, May 15, 2007, the most prolific crossword compiler is Roger Squires of Ironbridge, Shropshire, UK. On May 14, 2007, he published his 66,666th crossword, equivalent to 2 million clues. He is one of only four setters to have provided cryptic puzzles to The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, the Financial Times and The Independent. He also holds the record for the longest word ever used in a published crossword - the 58-letter Welsh town Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch clued as an anagram.
In languages other than English, the status of diacritics varies according to the orthography of the particular language, thus:
From the origin in New York, crosswords have spread to many countries and languages.
French-language crosswords are smaller than English-language ones, and not necessarily square: there are usually 8–13 rows and columns, totaling 81–130 squares. They need not be symmetric and two-letter words are allowed, unlike in most English-language puzzles. Compilers strive to minimize use of shaded squares. A black-square usage of 10% is typical; Georges Perec compiled many 9×9 grids for Le Point with four or even three black squares. Rather than numbering the individual clues, the rows and columns are numbered as on a chessboard. All clues for a given row or column are listed, against its number, as separate sentences. This is similar to the notation used in the aforementioned Daily Mail Blankout puzzles.
In Italy, crosswords are usually oblong and larger than French ones, 13×21 being a common size. As in France, they usually are not symmetrical; two-letter words are allowed; and the number of shaded squares is minimized. Nouns (including surnames) and the infinitive or past participle of verbs are allowed, as are abbreviations; in larger crosswords, it is customary to put at the center of the grid phrases made of two to four words, or forenames and surnames. A variant of Italian crosswords does not use shaded squares: words are delimited by thickening the grid. Another variant starts with a blank grid: the solver must insert both the answers and the shaded squares, and Across and Down clues are either ordered by row and column or not ordered at all.
Particularly curious is the Japanese language crossword; because of the writing system, one syllable (typically katakana) is entered into each white cell of the grid rather than one letter, resulting in the typical solving grid seeming small in comparison to those of other languages. Any second Yōon character is treated as a full syllable and is rarely written with a smaller character. Even cipher crosswords have a Japanese equivalent, although pangrammaticity does not apply. Crosswords with kanji to fill in are also produced, but in far smaller number as it takes far more effort to construct one. Despite Japanese having three writing forms, hiragana, katakana and kanji, they are rarely mixed in a single crossword puzzle.
In Poland, crosswords typically use British-style grids, but some do not have shaded cells. Shaded cells are often replaced by boxes with clues - such crosswords are called Swedish puzzles or Swedish-style crosswords. In a vast majority of Polish crosswords, nouns are the only allowed words.
Modern Hebrew is normally written with only the consonants; vowels are either understood, or entered as diacritical marks. This can lead to ambiguities in the entry of some words, and compilers generally specify that answers are to be entered in ktiv male (with some vowels) or ktiv haser (without vowels). Further, since Hebrew is written from right to left, but Roman numerals are used and written from left to right, there can be an ambiguity in the description of lengths of entries, particularly for multi-word phrases. Different compilers and publications use differing conventions for both of these issues.
A. N. Prahlada Rao, based in Bangalore, has composed some 40,000 crossword puzzles in the language Kannada, including 7,500 crosswords based on films made in Kannada, with a total of 1200,000 (Twelve lakhs) clues. <http://www.vijaykarnatakaepaper.com/Details.aspx?id=6041&boxid=1222762> A five volume set of his puzzles was released in February 2008. Bengali is also well known for its crossword puzzles. Crosswords are published regularly in almost all the Bengali dailies and periodicals. The grid system is quite similar to the British style and two-letter words are usually not allowed.
Swedish crosswords are mainly in the illustrated (photos or drawings), in-line clue style typical of the "Swedish-style grid" mentioned above. This tradition prospered already in the mid-1900s, in family magazines and sections of newspapers. Then the specialised magazines took off. Around the turn of the millennium, approximately half a dozen Swedish magazine editors produced specialised crossword magazines, totaling more than twenty titles, often published on a monthly basis. The oldest extant crossword magazine published in Swedish is Krysset (from Bonnier), founded in 1957. Additionally, nearly all newspapers publish crosswords of some kind, and at weekends often devote specialised sections in the paper to crosswords and similar type of pastime material. Both major evening dailies (Aftonbladet and Expressen) publish a weekly crossword supplement, named Kryss & Quiz and Korsord respectively. Both are available as paid supplements on Mondays and Tuesdays, as part of the ongoing competition between the two newspapers.
In typical themed American-style crosswords, the theme is created first, as a set of symmetric long Across answers will be needed around which the grid can be created. Since the grid will typically have 180-degree rotational symmetry, the answers will need to be also: thus a typical 15×15 square American puzzle might have two 15-letter entries and two 13-letter entries that could be arranged appropriately in the grid (e.g., one 15-letter entry in the third row, and the other symmetrically in the 13th row; one 13-letter entry starting in the first square of the 6th row and the other ending in the last square of the 10th row). The theme must not only be funny and/or interesting, but also internally consistent: in the sample "parts of a tree" theme shown above, CHARTER OAK would not be an appropriate entry, as all the other entries contain different parts of a tree, not the name of a kind of tree. Similarly, FAMILY TREE would not be appropriate unless it were used as a revealer for the theme (frequently clued with a phrase along the lines "...and a hint to..."). Given the existing entries, SEED MONEY would also be unacceptable, as all the other theme entries end in the part of a tree as opposed to beginning with it, though the puzzle could certainly be changed to have a mix of words in different positions.
Once a consistent, appropriate theme has been chosen, a grid is designed around that theme, following a set of basic principles:
The website Cruciverb.com provides numerous resources for constructors, including forums to discuss puzzles with other constructors, construction advice from experienced constructors, and specifications from the major publishers on how to submit puzzles to them and what their specific puzzle requirements are. Content available with a paid subscription includes a database of words found in major published puzzles.
Crossword puzzle payments for standard 15×15 puzzles from the major outlets range from $50 (GAMES Magazine) to $200 (The New York Times) while payments for 21×21 puzzles range from $150 (Newsday) to $1,000 (The New York Times).
The compensation structure of crosswords generally entails authors selling all rights to their puzzles upon publication, and as a result receiving no royalties from republication of their work in books or other forms. This system has been criticized by American Values Club crossword editor Ben Tausig, among others.
In cryptics, as only half of the letters are typically checked and as there is usually no theme, grid construction is far easier, and the constructor focuses instead on the difficult task of creating clues that contain a straight definition, a cryptic definition, and a "surface" meaning (each clue must parse as a phrase).
It consists of giving the locations of the shaded squares in each row as letters (A=1, B=2, etc.); e.g., for the example crossword below:
Although the numbering scheme could be consistently applied from this information, it is customary to quote the starting square of each clue in (number-letter) format.
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