Useful Tips

We’ve given you a lot of information so far for creating a great crossword puzzle – personalized for your own needs. There are a few additional tips we want to provide you that will help to make your puzzle even better. This may help you to avoid issues as you develop your list of words and clues, and we may answer some questions you don’t even know you have yet!

Tips To Make Your Clues Easier to Solve:

Although most puzzles are not intended to stump the puzzle-doers, you have to consider your “audience” when preparing your list of words and clues. Of course, you will have the answer key to provide them if they really can’t figure out the clue, but there are certain things you can do when writing the clues to make doing the puzzle a bit easier especially if you think some of your puzzle-doers may need a little help. For example:

  • What might be a difficult word can be made easy by giving a lot of information in the clue, such as the clue for the word “Andersonville” can be presented as:

           Andersonville: The first letter is “A” and the word ends in “ville”.

     Or, you can give even more information such as:

           Andersonville: The first part of the word is “Ander” and the word ends in “ville”.

  • You can give the answer to one clue in the clue to another word. For instance:

           Clue #1:

           Saturday: The day of the week that our spring competition was held in Niles, Illinois.

           Clue #2:

           Niles: The city in Illinois where our spring competition was held.

  • The word you are using may have another meaning which you can add to your original clue. For instance, if the word is “page”:

           Page: To call someone over the intercom.

     Or, you can add an additional clue:

           Page: To call someone over the intercom. Also, a main component of a book.

  • You can add simple words and clues to your puzzle by creating relevant abbreviations. For instance, the clue might be “Internal Revenue Service” and the word is “IRS”.
    • IRS: Internal Revenue Service
  • If you have Personalized Crossword Puzzles build the puzzle for you, you can opt to have certain letters (your choice) pre-filled-in when the puzzle is created to make doing the puzzle even easier (click for an example). You can also use other characters in the words that appear in the puzzle, such as hyphens, for example: “red-headed”.
  • You can also use special characters in the words that appear in the puzzle, such as hyphens, for instance:
    • Hot-headed: When Bill gets mad, his temperament can best be described as this.

           Alternatively, you can either ignore the fact that this word is commonly hyphenated, and just have the word appear without the hyphen, such as:

    • Hotheaded: When Bill gets mad, his temperament can best be described as this.

           Or, if the software you are using allows for it (Personalized Crossword Puzzles offers this feature), you can pre-fill-in the hyphen in the blank puzzle.

Additional Tips:

  • NUMBERS AS WORDS: Typically, if any of your “words” (answers) in the puzzle are numbers, then they should be spelled out. Most often, a number in the puzzle will appear as a word (for example, “ten”) and not as a digit (example “10”). There is an exception to this and that is in the case where a digit is part of the word. Although this is unusual, one such example would be the title of the movie “Boys2Men”.
  • SHORTER WORDS ARE BEST: For overall puzzle appearance, shorter words are generally better than longer words. For example, if the street Tom grew up on is Ash Boulevard, it would be better to have “Ash” as the word, rather than “Boulevard”:
    • Ash: The Street that Tom grew up on is ___ Boulevard.

This would be preferred over:

    • Boulevard: The Street that Tom grew up on is Ash _________.


  • UNUSUALLY LONG WORDS: We noted earlier that all puzzle programs have a maximum length of the words that can appear in a puzzle. Personalized Crossword Puzzles allows for a maximum word length of 30 characters in the puzzle. There are very few words that are longer than this. One example is the word, “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. It has a total of 34 letters. If you were to use such a word in your puzzle, you could state in the clue that the last four letters have been eliminated. For example:
    • Supercalifragilisticexpialidoc: A song in the movie, “Mary Poppins”, that can mean extraordinarily good or wonderful (all but the last 4 letters).


  • REPEATED WORDS: Although it is not commonly done, if you want, you can have a word repeated with a different clue, for example:
    • Two: The number of times Larry jumped in the pool at the party.
    • Two: Mary has this many rings on her right hand.

           Note: you can also have both clues as one with the word “Two” appearing only once, for instance::

    • Two: The # of times Larry jumped in the pool at the party, and the # of rings Mary has on her right hand.


  • TIPS TO ABBREVIATE LONG CLUES: All crossword puzzle programs have a limit on the length of the clue for each word. You must be mindful of this so that the clue you write will fit into the space allowed. Personalized Crossword Puzzles allows for a generous maximum of 150 characters for your clues. If you find you have an unusually long clue, you may need to shorten it.
    • Ways to abbreviate clues in order to conserve space for long clues:
      • “and” – “&” “percent” – “%”
      • “number” – “#” “plus” – “+”
      • “money” – “$” “equals” – “=”
      • Use digits for numbers in the clue rather than spelling them out (for instance, use “13” rather than “thirteen” in the clue).
      • Etc.
  • UNIQUE SPELLINGS: Certain words, like nicknames, may have a unique spelling and may not even have a recognized spelling (such as “Pookie” and “Schnoogams”), so YOU need to decide on how you want such words to appear.
  • MINIMUM PUZZLE SIZE: A good minimum number of words and clues should be at least 20 for a good-sized puzzle. Of course, it is entirely up to you how many words and clues you want to include, but a puzzle with only a few words won’t be very challenging and may not reflect much effort on your part.
  • MAXIMUM PUZZLE SIZE: You should be aware that some crossword puzzle programs may not be able to include all of your words in the puzzle. If some words don’t fit, they will simply be left out. If Personalized Crossword Puzzles prepares your puzzle for you, we guarantee that all of your puzzle words and clues will fit into the puzzle.

Final Notes:

  • If your puzzle contains a list of people (family, team or club members, for example), be sure to double check that you have included everyone in the group. You don’t want to leave someone out who should be included.
  • Make sure you check the spelling of the words you select for the puzzle, and check the wording of the clues for spelling and grammar.
  • You should know that all letters in the puzzle will be upper case (CAPITALIZED).

Contact Personalized Crossword Puzzles for more tips on creating a great puzzle.