So, you want to create a custom crossword puzzle with your own crossword clues and answers? Brilliant idea!
At elevencorners we've created loads of custom crosswords for customers who give them as gifts. They send us their clues and their words for the crossword, we do the design and then send them a print, canvas print or high resolution print file.
We try to make each crossword look as good as it possibly can, and we've learned a few things along the way. So we've put together a little list of hints and tips for anyone creating a crossword puzzle print. It doesn't tell you how to make your own crossword and it's not about crossword design. It's about how you can choose clues and answers that help to make your finished crossword look great.
Could any gift be more personal? Crossword puzzles take time and effort to put together but we get great feedback that people who are given crosswords as gifts love them.
And why wouldn't they? Custom crossword puzzles tick a lot of boxes when it comes to being an 'ideal gift':
Now, on to the hints and tips about how to make your crossword look great...
NOTE: What follows are guidelines, they are not hard-and-fast rules! If you want to go your own way and ignore a guideline, go for it! Sometimes you can't avoid it. But these are the general principles that we've found help to make your crossword look as good as it can.
The answers are the words that appear in the crossword grid. We suggest you don't have too many answers that are very long. Long answers - those with lots of characters - can cause problems.
Because fitting lots of long answers into a crossword grid can be tricky. To accommodate lots of long answers, a crossword grid has to be printed very small, which means the text becomes hard to read.
Lots of short words cause crossword design problems too!
Because lots of short words severely reduces the crossword design options due to lack of 'breathing space'. In some cases, a crossword may be impossible to design from a list of very short words.
So what's best when it comes to crossword answers? Where's the sweet spot?
In general, what we've found works best is a mix: one or two long(ish) words, a few medium length words and a few short words. Every crossword is different, but this is a good starting point. If you're compiling ideas and you find you've already got five very long answers, you know it's time for a bit of a rethink.
In most of our crosswords, we suggest a maximum answer length of 16 characters, but there's no need to have words this long if you don't need them.
Don't include punctuation in your answers! No hyphens or commas or apostrophes! We don't print punctuation in crosswords because it breaks up the crossword design too much.
Most people don't think too much about the length of their clues - they just write the best set of clues they can. This is an excellent place to start.
But remember that even though the clues don't need to fit together like the answers do, they do need to appear together on the same print.
A set of clues that are of a roughly the same length looks more attractive on the finished print than a set of clues that are wildly different lengths.
For example, if you have one or two very long clues (e.g. they cover 4 or 5 lines when all the other clues cover 1 or 2 lines), you can end up with a very unbalanced set of clues. And, obviously, the more space the clues take up on the print, the less space there is for the crossword itself.
In practice, if all your clues are fairly short (1 or 2 lines), there shouldn't be a problem. Some of our favourite customer crosswords ever have had the shortest clues - all one line (e.g. dates of birth or very short descriptions).
Crosswords are great fun to create, and they can take a bit of hard work too. But the results are worth it! They are wonderful, personal, unique gifts.
If you're looking for inspiration about what kind of things to include on your crossword, read this: here's a list of custom crossword ideas from our customers.