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Quick Crossword Writing Tips

Writing a quick crossword may sound very straightforward, but it is actually difficult to write a good puzzle. Indeed, many newspaper puzzles are written by hand by the people that also write the cryptic puzzles, you just generally do not realise it. The main reason for this is that the quick crossword is always published without the name of the setter, in contrast to the cryptic where the name of the setter is usually given. It would be interesting to see if people could say they had a favourite quick setter if they knew who they were, in the same way that they look forward to the puzzles by a particular cryptic writer and get to know their personality over time.

One of the key elements when writing a quick crossword is to try and keep answers fairly short and straightforward. Clues should generally be simple synonyms. Try to stick to words in the grid that you can reasonably expect everyone to know. Remember that this is a quick crossword, and therefore the requirement to look up words in a dictionary or to use general knowledge should be kept to a minimum. People generally don't like having to look up words with a quick crossword in the way that they might expect to with a cryptic.

Make sure you use one dictionary and stick to it, as spellings of some words varies across dictionaries, so you at least want to be consistent. Avoid variant spellings - that really annoys solvers if they put the mainstream spelling in a grid and get stuck only to find the setter has used a variant spelling.

Remember that if you use abbreviations you should let this be known in the clue. If you use anagrams, try not to have more than two in a puzzle, but it is a good type to include as it presents a different challenge to the rest of the clues. If you do use anagrams, double check that you get the anagram correct and that there is only one solution that fits in the grid.

Once you have written the puzzle, solve it and check that you can only think of one answer that fits each clue: people get frustrated by multiple solutions with crosswords.

If you are hand-writing it, rather than using software, then you need to check your clue lengths carefully. Be sure to note multi-word answers correctly: either with a hyphen or with a comma to indicate multi-word answers.

When writing a puzzle, avoid related answers such as ATE and EATEN in the same grid: this doesn't look good. Also avoid having solution words appearing in a clue: for instance if the word SMILE is an answer, then avoid using the word smile or smiling or some other derivative in the clues: this does occur from time to time but it looks sloppy.

If you want to inject some personality in your quick crossword, then the most common way of doing this is to have a phrase appear in the top row of across clues. This is a feature of several newspaper puzzles and can raise a good chuckle in the solver, as well as potentially helping them get started in their puzzle solve.

Try to have a mix of simple answers and some harder ones, and some where there is only one word that fits so people can get started, whilst having other clues with one or more possible answers that the solver can only whittle down as they solve other clues. This gives a good flow to the puzzle solve.

What other tips do you have when it comes to creating a quick crossword? Or, as a solver, are there certain things you particularly appreciate or perhaps dislike about quick crosswords? Please feel free to share your comments here.
Date written: 07 Jun 2015

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