How to Create a Crossword Puzzle – 6 Simple Steps

by Carol Lee
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For many, trying an online crossword is a daily ritual. Some try them in the morning with a cup of coffee while others do while they commute.

Crossword puzzles are the best way to escape the stress and anxiety that we all experience in life. Crossword keeps the brain active while improving cognitive ability.

Do you know that free crossword puzzles are also loved by celebrities? Yes. Jon Stewart, Bill Clinton, Yo-Yo Ma, Bill Gates, Martha Stewart, and Nancy Pelosi are crossword fans.

When the matches get delayed or postponed, tennis player Lindsay Davenport tries the online word game.

There are many who have been spotted working on the online puzzles. A few individuals solve the clues of the crossword aspirationally as they want people to perceive them as nerds.

Hey, that’s not right. Anyone can work on a crossword and solve it. 

A crossword is a reflection of everything happening around. 

What is the History of Crossword?

The first published crossword was created by journalist Arthur Wynne from Liverpool on December 21, 1913.

Yes, its more than 100 years ago. The newspaper was-“The New York World”. The first puzzle was in the shape of a diamond and didn’t have any black squares.

This turned out to be an overnight success. Since then, crosswords are being created and the trend is in full bloom even today.

But has it ever come to your mind, how is the crossword constructed?

What do you call someone who makes crossword puzzles? Yes, you are absolutely correct, a Crossword constructor.

Are you a crossword enthusiast who has just started making new puzzles? If yes, you must be looking for a free crossword puzzle maker.

Crossword construction takes a lot of effort, efficiency, and smartness.

Let’s start with how can I make a crossword puzzle? You have to follow the below-mentioned things:

Let’s Start!

Before we start to tell you how to create a crossword, you have to make your mindset.

Didn’t understand? Let me explain.

The Mindset

Wondering, how to make a crossword puzzle?

One thing you should always remember-puzzle making is tricky. Creating an interacting puzzle is more challenging than solving one.

It takes an experienced puzzle creator 3-9 hours to make a standard 15X15 puzzle. And for beginners, even a crossword puzzle template can take more than that.

So we are about to start with a crossword puzzle generator. Don’t expect that you will finish making the puzzle in a single sitting. Relax. We are there to help. I hope you will have fun.

This A to Z crossword puzzle maker will help you a lot as it acts as a comprehensive guide.

Grab a steaming hot cup of tea or coffee and start enjoying the puzzle making the journey.

1) The Right Technology

First things first.

Before you start, you should know what software to use to make a crossword puzzle?

Otherwise, the complete process will be unending. So download any software like Crossword Compiler or Crossfire or any program that you like.

When we use this software for making crossword puzzle, everything becomes easy.

2) Deciding the Theme

When someone tells us that they are cool crossword puzzle makers, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

The first question asked is, “Which do you write first, the clues or the grid?”

Neither. The first and foremost is to decide the theme of the puzzle.

The crossword puzzle’s theme is a unifying motif among certain answers in the grid.

And usually, the ones that are longest. Crossword themes range from vaguely comprehensible to hellishly complex.

The most important element of any ideal crossword is its theme. What do you think? Isn’t it an easy way to make crossword puzzles?

The crossword theme has 5-10 answers that are related in some way or the other.

For example, at times, the theme will feature answers that have a pun on them.

Or sometimes the theme consists of a bunch of similar things like phrases that begin with the same letter ‘A’ or things that scare people. In short, a theme can be anything.

Theme Entries

Ever thought how to make a crossword puzzle with vocabulary words?  Hey, everything is possible and it’s too much fun.

When you make your own crossword puzzle with the answer key, you must have observed that many online crossword puzzles or newspaper crosswords have themes.

For example, the theme answers could be related to a particular person, a novel written by a single author, a particular type of pun or wordplay, or some other conceit. 

However, there is fairly wide latitude as to theme choice, but some general guidelines apply off course.  


More challenging puzzles are less likely to have a theme. Although they will usually contain at least as many long words.

You can make changes to the crossword puzzle but can’t change the theme as the complete puzzle will change.

Make it Symmetrical

You must be thinking about how to make crossword puzzles like NYTimes? Well, perfection comes from following the basic rules.

In the standard puzzle grid 15×15 squared on Monday-Saturday, 21×21 on Sunday, puzzles have to be symmetrical all the time. This means all the entries should be of the corresponding length.

It is important that the white squares in the grid are connected to each other.

This means in an online crossword puzzle maker, getting the answer in one corner of the grid will help the crossword solver crack the answer in the other corner. 

Ideally, what makes a good crossword puzzle is the symmetry. There is no section in the grid that is only connected with the rest of the board by a single word. Although, this is not a mandatory rule.

Don’t Repeat Words

Want to make changes to the crossword puzzle? We will help you with that as well.

One of the best things about crosswords is that they don’t repeat the same exact words over and over again. This is pretty unique, isn’t it?

This is so obvious that the same word can’t be an answer to two separate clues. This rule also applies to the components of compound words and multi-word answers. 

So when you are constructing an online crossword, make sure you use original words. If you repeat words that your puzzle won’t get published anywhere.

For example, there can’t be one answer COW MILK and another be CASH COW.  You could, however, have an answer COWPER as the words are etymologically different.


The answer should be the same part of speech as the clue.  For example, Writing implements can be PENS or PENCILS, but not a PEN or PENCIL.  Went, in a way could be WALKED, but not WALK or WALKING.

No Pictures are Allowed

This one is obvious. You can’t add pictures in your puzzle when you are working with a crossword puzzle maker with black boxes.

Although you may sometimes feel that it is fun to add images or headshots in your puzzle but please don’t do that.

Newspapers or online crossword websites will never publish this type of puzzles.


Whenever you think of how to make a free printable crossword puzzle, this will assist you.

You can make a list of all the one-word TV shows possible.

Make Google and Wikipedia as your best friends here. When you have finally listed all, you know what it takes to become a creative crossword puzzle maker.

Then look at the ones that will suitably fit in the grid.

Three-letter shows like ALF or CSI (in “TRAFFIC SIGNS,” say) are fine. You can also use use four-, five-, or even a six-letter show.

Just make sure they are symmetrical lengthwise so that they can offset one another in the grid.

So, when you make your crossword puzzle and use the 11-letter MENTAL FLOSS in the top left You’ll also need an 11-letter entry in the bottom right as its mirror image. The middle ones can be anything.

3) Adding Black Squares

Now that you have finalized the theme, it is the right time to add the black boxes in the grid. Well, this block adding section also has a couple of rules.

Symmetrical blocks

Do you know how to make a crossword puzzle in the word? We are here to make you learn everything about free custom crossword maker.

Blocks also have to be placed symmetrically. This is self-explanatory like a crossword theme.

Although historically, crossword creators were supposed to limit black squares to not more than 6th of the grid or 17%.

When the black square limitation is encouraged, there is not a formal limit on the total count of the numbers the grid can have.

One thing that you should always keep in mind whether you are using online crossword maker or newspaper puzzle maker is large clumps of black squares are strongly discouraged

Words can’t be less than three letters

Place the blocks carefully so that all the words in the grid are of three letters or longer than that.

Be careful about the word limit

When you are using a website to make your own crossword puzzle, you won’t be able to understand how to figure out the right things.

But with practice and recommendations of an expert, everything is possible.

For most of the standard 15×15 online word puzzles, you should have 78 words in your crossword. This is what good crossword makers do.

All words should be at least three letters.  All letters must be “keyed”, meaning they are in an across word and a down word.

 For an unthemed puzzle, you should have a maximum of 72 words. And in a Sunday puzzle, you can have a maximum of 140 words.

Many people have the time to play Sunday puzzles, and this is the reason for the highest number of words.

4) Add the Rest of the Words

This part takes the maximum amount of time before going for a free crossword puzzle maker to print. But it is very important.

Word Placement

When you think who makes the crossword puzzle and how it is obvious that a constructor having the passion to do so is the one who creates an interesting thing.

You are also on your way to make your own crossword puzzle for free.

With a few exceptions, there has to be a non-theme entry with a length equal to or longer than a theme entry.  Unique entries are always welcome but don’t make it too difficult for the solver that he is unable to solve.

Short ones often receive a special placement. This means first or class clue or the center.

Spelling Variants

Usually indicated by “(var.)” in clues, spelling variants should be kept to an absolute minimum. 

puzzle maker crossword can also help you in this.

For example, either keep it ‘Honor’ or ‘Honour’. 9American or British English, you have to choose that in the beginning itself.


There is one more thing that has to be taken into consideration when you look for the best free puzzle maker is to understand the abbreviations.

When you are making the answer as an abbreviation, you also have to make the clue in a manner that it includes an abbreviation or give a hint regarding the same.

Obscure Answers

Obscure answers are fine if they make the crossword interesting. But vague ones can be avoided.

Popular Names

Either the first or last name is used in a clue

 For example, Microsoft CEO Steve’s predecessor will be BILL, not GATES.  Former Microsoft CEO Bill will be GATES.

Clue-Answer Difference: No significant word in the answer will appear in the clue while you work with the online printable crossword puzzle maker

.  For example, Box on a TV Set will not be SET TOP.

5) Write Down the Clues

Do crossword puzzles make you smarter? What is the answer you would give for this question?

Of course, it does. It helps in improving vocabulary and enhances analytical skills. 

You must be thinking, how to make clues for crossword puzzles?

Well, let’s move on to the clue writing step. With the help of this step, you can make public crossword puzzle clue.

Finally, the most interesting step is here! Now when all the answers in the puzzles are confirmed, it is high time you write the clues for them. You see, without clues the crossword puzzle is clueless.

Short & crisp clues

When you start writing clues for the crossword puzzle game, try making them crisp and concise. For example, if you want to write a clue about the most common puzzle word “OREO,” you can write one of the following clues:

  •  A diet version of the cookie
  •  Twistable treat
  •  Calorie-conscious food or
  •  anything that refers to crème, cookie filling, black and white or dip-ability in milk.

Factually correct clues

 Make sure whatever you are writing a clue, it has to be factually correct else you will be held responsible for spreading any wrong information. Make your crossword puzzle but don’t make these silly mistakes please.

Here are a few wrong clues:

  •  MAINE: America’s worst state
  •  OSS: number 2,4,6, 8, 10, and so on.
  •  ANTE: She married uncle

Make sure all the aforementioned clues or anything similar is a big no-no.

Clue Conventions

There are a lot of clue conventions that have to be followed that will make your crossword puzzle.

The solver challenge is to figure out the clue and not figuring out whether you’re following convention.

6) Simply Send

Finally, you are done  it is a time when you have completed your online puzzle in five easy steps, and you are ready to send it.

Take a print out of the puzzle, inclusive of your headshot, and mail it to the newspaper in which you want it to get published.

And you are on your way to publishing your very first crossword ever.

But before you do that, we will explain to you all the aforementioned rules of a crossword with the following example:


When you are adding a theme to your online crossword puzzle, you have to follow a certain set of rules.

In this particular case, MENTAL FLOSS should be one of this puzzle’s theme entries.

This is a unique theme that is likely to attract many solvers. There are a lot many ways to incorporate that phrase into a wider, hopefully amusing pattern.

When we are done noting down the list, it looks something like this:

MENT AL FLOSS hiding “ALF” (11 letters)

JOE L OSTEEN hiding “Lost” (10 letters)

ALABA MA SHAKES hiding “M*A*S*H”(13 letters)

S WING STATE hiding “Wings” (10 letters)

LI VE EPISODE hiding “Veep” (11 letters)

This one is a decent set. You will observe that it is a mix of recent and old-school programming so that everyone can easily relate to it.

Thinking what to do next? Want to switch to something else?

Want to make crossword in Powerpoint or Microsoft Word? Well, that is a tougher call.

You can do it once you are pro but as a beginner, we won’t recommend that.

In the above, we didn’t get six-letter words but there are a few close calls:

COMBAT MANEUVER is for “Batman,” and “Roswell” came within one letter of being a killer seven-letter show hidden in HE RO’S WELCOME. You can’t put in everything that you wish.

You will understand how to make a crossword puzzle step-by-step in this example as we keep moving further.

Next is black square placement.

Guided by some long-established rules mentioned above, the entries have to be at least three letters long. So, no two-letter words allowed.

It is important that the grid has 180-degree rotational symmetry. What do you mean by crossword rotational symmetry?

This means, when you turn the puzzle upside-down, the pattern remains the same. And finally, the maximum word count permitted in the grid is 78.

With theme entries and black squares placed, my grid looks like this:

Filling the Grid

How to make a crossword puzzle game becomes more relevant when you know how to fill the crossword grid.

This is one of the toughest parts. We will be starting with “AREA” and “ARIA” and “ONO” and “ERIE”.

As all of them are all perfectly good words. Plus they are common words published in many online crosswords.

I know you are going to love crossword puzzle makers.

Well, one question will definitely arise in your mind, can’t the computer crossword puzzle maker fill in all the words.

The answer is Sort of.

The complete process in the free custom crossword puzzle maker is semi-computerized.

The software dances between the human brain and the silicon monster’s brute force. You still need both to get a good final product.

But it is a fact that digital crossword puzzle makers gradually make the human contribution less and less important.

However, we will begin our word filling process from the center.  The divide-and-conquer strategy leaves us with the more blocked-off edges to knock out later.

Do you remember what the name of a crossword puzzle maker is? Yes, Crossword Compiler and Crossfire. You guys got that right.

People, we are giving you detailed crossword puzzle maker free education. So grab what you can

We will be starting from the corners in the crossword puzzle maker. Well, the center is also a logical place to begin with. This is because three or so entries are running through it.

After some time, we are satisfied with the fills in the crossword puzzle maker play online.

As with the theme entries, the fill has a decent balance of contemporary (“HBO,” “OMG,” “GOLD’S” Gym) and classical (“KABUL,” “PARIS,” “LBJ”).

We are using an abbreviation “CIS,” the “ONT,” or the partial “DEO,” but that’s how it has to be with crosswords. Keep this to minimum.

Add some catchy stuff like “EASY NOW,” “CON JOB,” and the cross-referenced “STEELY / DAN” to balance everything in the crossword puzzle generator.

The next words are [Word that reverses to a “Seinfeld” character] for “REMARK” and [Felt something on your head?] for “FEDORA.”

Sometimes, a marginal entry can be rescued with a good clue, like ‘ONT’ here.

Finally, everything is completed in the ‘make my crossword puzzle’.

Best cross-checking tip: Cross-check every clue and the corresponding answer you filled in the crossword puzzle maker.

The best is to solve the complete puzzles and this will ensure that you haven’t missed anything.

To us, everything looks good, so we will be exporting the puzzle into a tidy e-file and send it off for publishing

This is the final outcome of the easy way to make a crossword puzzle.

I hope you have understood everything about the crossword puzzle maker and solver.

What are you waiting for? Get started right away by trying crossword puzzle maker software free download.

Happy Puzzle Making!

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