Everything has there own conventions. Rules or guidelines are there to help maintain quality and ensure a uniform standard which becomes the basis of evaluation which promotes, eventually, further improvement or development. You might ask why the serious tone. We’re talking about crossword puzzles and the first few sentences you read are about rules and standards like I was talking about ISO standards that need to be followed. You have to pardon me for the seemingly out of place and an over reaction of an introduction. I was so accustomed at enjoying crossword puzzles that it never occurred to be that there are actually rules in making a crossword.
Yes, believe it or not, that small square of entertainment that you fill out in your daily newspaper does follow certain guidelines during the creation process. Although, it appears that the guidelines may differ depending on the editor of the entertainment section or the editor of the newspaper. For example, some newspapers will require crossword puzzle submissions to be of a symmetrical nature. This basically means you will get the same pattern from the crossword grid when you view it upside-down. But make no mistake, the symmetry is purely the reference for patterns only and does not really affect the answers in the puzzle.
Despite having no standardized guidelines for making crosswords, there are some well accepted rules that most papers follow.
One guideline that seems to be followed by conventional puzzle makers pertains to the use of black squares. Traditionally, only 16% of the squares in a crossword puzzle grid should be black ones. But today, editors and even the target audience frown upon a crossword puzzle with too many black squares clump together. Today the idea is to create a puzzle with as few black squares as possible. It is also now strongly suggested that puzzle solvers can go from one corner of the grid to another.
The minimum length of an answer in a crossword should be less than three letters. Two-letter words should be avoided. You should take care of not accidentally creating two-letter words from the intersecting words. When selecting words for the grid, you get the longest one and make sure that the across and down boxes are symmetrical. I do maintain that this practice is a personal reference. There are several crossword puzzles out there that are not symmetrical in any way. So it would be your decision if you want to publish an asymmetrical crossword grid.
Other guidelines include not repeating words in the grid. This is something that a puzzle maker should do. In the first place, there’s no need to repeat a word in grid since there are a lot of word or terms out there that can be used in a decent crossword. Repeating word entries is inexcusable. Also, inventing your words to accommodate a word resulting from intersecting answers is never allowed. Often, editors will require puzzle makers to produce their set of references for the answers they placed inside the crossword. Also, wrong spellings and punctuations in both the answers and clues are unacceptable.
Speaking of clues, you need to write concise clues. Avoid writing questions as clues. Such practice is often avoided unless absolutely necessary. When writing the actual clues, be sure that you follow proper grammar rules. The first word of each clue should be capitalized as well as proper nouns and names.
When making your own crossword, do not forget for whom you are creating the puzzle. Coordinate with them closely to see if they still have other specific rules and guidelines.