Best workflow for building crossword grids?
July 3, 2012 11:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm about 95% done with my first NYT-style themed crossword puzzle, currently laid out by hand on graph paper, and I want to start looking at making a digital version of it. What are some good tools or workflow for creating well laid out crossword grids on the computer?

I have Creative Suite through my job, but don't know if doing it by hand is the best way to go or if there's some better system. Most of the software I've found (I'm on a Mac) seems to for automatic puzzle generation, which I don't need or want. I just need a good system for adding black squares, letters, and numbers to a 15x15 grid. I'd also rather not pay a lot of money for software that includes features I don't really need, if possible.
posted by OverlappingElvis to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you have Excel, I think it might be the easiest thing to accomplish something like this, ironically. Just set up the cells so they're square, set your grid lines, and add the little numbers. You'll need to tweak the text settings so that the text is aligned left and top. It seems like it would make laying out the clues fairly easy as well.

This is completely unfounded advice. It's just what I would do were I in your shoes
posted by duien at 11:59 AM on July 3, 2012

The de facto standard for crossword puzzle files is Across, which has a pretty straightforward specification for marking up a text file. There are readers for that format (I like Black Ink for OS X) for pretty much every platform, many of which will also let you generate a well-formatted PDF (via printing to PDF or whatever).
posted by bcwinters at 12:00 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks duien — if I go that route, any advice for having both letters in the squares and the number label on top left?
posted by OverlappingElvis at 12:01 PM on July 3, 2012

I don't have any clever ideas there. However, I don't think I've ever seen a professional puzzle that had both. Usually, you see the numbers in the blank, solvable version and then letters only in the answer version.

It sounds like the Across format may be the way to go, though, particularly if you'd like to publish it in a way people can solve on the computer, rather than something they need to print out.
posted by duien at 12:16 PM on July 3, 2012

>>any advice for having both letters in the squares and the number label on top left?
Superscript on the number - and you can have your letters in there as well. Find it by going into the font menu, there's a little checkbox.
posted by b33j at 2:52 PM on July 3, 2012

Cruciverb is the place to go if you want to be in puzzle construction.
posted by CathyG at 3:37 PM on July 3, 2012

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