OK, this August weekend you’re gonna take a run at the NY Times Sunday crossword. Good luck with that. But have you ever thought about creating one? Herewith an insider’s guide to getting one published:
- The grid must 21 squares by 21 squares and symmetrical, so that if you turn it upside-down, it looks exactly the same.
- The maximum number of answers allowed is 140.
- The black squares should not comprise more than 16% of the puzzle, and should never completely isolate a section of the puzzle.
- No letter should be in one word only; each letter should be part of both a DOWN and an ACROSS word.
- The inclusion of rarely-used letters of the alphabet is strongly encouraged.
- “Themes should be fresh, interesting, narrowly defined and consistently applied throughout the puzzle.” The “themed answers” should be placed symmetrically in the puzzle and must be the longest answers in the puzzle.
- Answers should reference a cross-section of interests including geography, history, art, music, mythology, etc.
- Don’t use partial phrases of more than 5 letters, words of “uninteresting obscurity,” uncommon abbreviations, or rarely used foreign words.
- Never let two particularly hard or obscure words cross.
- “The New York Times looks for intelligent, literate, entertaining and well-crafted crosswords that appeal to the broad range of Times solvers.”
To increase your chances of getting accepted by puzzle master Will Shortz, include words related to Arabian horses, Indiana, Tudor architecture and Arts and Crafts. And go heavy on cultural references and riddles.
BONUS ADVICE: The inclusion of “enigmatologist” may generate fortuitous repercussions.