Crossword Publishing help
February 15, 2011 7:49 AM   Subscribe

hi, i am a beginner to creating crossword puzzles (i have only created 4) but i am wondering about some strategies to try and get published. i have emailed a number of newspapers and magazines but not sure what else i can do. i know i don't have enough puzzles at the moment to start a blog and i work full time so can't really dedicate a lot of time to creating daily puzzles. does anyone have experience with publishing crosswords and any tips on how to possibly do it as a part time gig? thanks for any advice.
posted by matt755811 to Writing & Language (2 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I used to work for a large publishing company commonly found on newsstands who publishes crosswords.

As someone who handled incoming puzzle submissions for about a year, I can tell you that if you are interested in crosswords specifically, you should focus on themed or special crosswords. For standard crosswords, most companies I am familiar with use computer generated grids and have the editorial staff create the clue lists according to house style (or the lists themselves can even be computer generated for the easier/"cheaper" brands/books.)

There were strict rules as to how many "Fill in the blank" clues per puzzle were allowed, Actor/Actress names, and TV references in general puzzles, and not to mention stringent character counts. Even in the human constructed puzzles we accepted, the clue lists were almost completely revamped by editorial staff to adhere to our house style. It was mainly the grid they were interested in.

This is a difficult field to break into, the pay is not great, and most submissions languish from one editor's inbox to another before being shuffled into a file folder somewheres (in my experience in any case.)

The one exception was themed, cryptic or otherwise difficult to construct by software grids. Keep in mind that grids almost always MUST be completely symmetrical (I can't tell you how many submissions I tossed because of they were not symmetrical), and knowing someone in the industry is very helpful. Don't focus on classifying your puzzles as Easy/Medium/Hard crosswords, as there are very strict rules as to what determines difficulty level that vary from editor to editor.
posted by Debaser626 at 8:17 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

As someone who has had a crossword published, here are some tips. First, there is an active crossword constructor community online. You will want to go to Cruciverb and poke around, as there are lots of resources, including a listserv, which you will find valuable both in terms of making higher-quality crosswords and in navigating the publishing process.

Newspapers and magazines which publish quality, original crosswords employ a crossword editor. These editors are the people you will submit crosswords to. Some papers publish computer-generated 13x13 crosswords, and others just syndicate someone else's crosswords. Don't bother contacting publications without an in-house crossword editor, as they are not interested in paying you for your work.

An editor receives submissions from individual constructors, picks out the better ones, and publishes them, probably making some changes here and there. It isn't uncommon for editors to rewrite many of a crossword's clues, or even to rework some of the filled grid. Most places that do daily crosswords accept submissions on spec, which means that you don't need to contact the editor and arrange a contract prior to submission of the work. You just write the crossword and send it in, they will either accept or reject.

Cruciverb maintains a list of publications which accept submissions and their specifications. Read these carefully and make sure your crossword conforms to their guidelines. If it does, and you think it is of reasonably good quality, then send it to them in the format they request and wait for a response. If your crossword meets their needs they will offer you a publication contract for it. That's really all there is to it.

That said, there are a couple things to be cautious of. It is considered extremely bad form to submit the same crossword to multiple editors at the same time; if it is accepted by one you will have to withdraw it from the rest and this will win you no friends. Don't do it. It's also polite to only have one puzzle pending with a given editor at any time, at least until the editors know who you are.

Good luck.
posted by shadow vector at 12:23 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

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