In the Mind of a Cruciverbalist – Part 2

Hi there! Last time I wrote about some strategies that I use most of the time when I’m making a crossword, and I mentioned I would be taking a look at how I made my puzzle, so here we go!

NOTE: This post contains spoilers for my quiz Two-Word Hint Mega Crossword 2 (since this post is specifically about my thought process of how I went about making this quiz).

GiantCrossword_Example
This template currently has 441 squares – 121 black squares = 320 white squares.

  • I started with a template grid similar to the one I had posted in my previous post, though I shifted the black squares so that there were fewer lines of answers (I did this because I was worried about the 300-answer limit – each letter is an individual answer, so there can’t be more than 300 letters). In this case I used the “place black squares as I go along” strategy (and surely I would place at least 20 black squares along the way, on top of what’s already on this template).
  • This crossword has a hidden theme, although not many people noticed it. While it was easy to notice the “shooting star” and “crescent moon” near the middle, the actual theme wasn’t actually related to space. It was actually “things in Sporclers’ profile icons”. As “shooting star” (my own profile pic) and “crescent moon” (for MoMosMoProblems) were both 12 letters long, I used those as my starting words and placed both of them close to the middle of the crossword. There were some other theme words I knew I wanted to include, and while I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a reference to every Sporclers’ icon, I did try to fit in as many as I could (and whenever I thought of one that I could add in while building contiguously, I tried to include it).
  • I then noticed that the positions where I placed my starting words gives me room to put the “volcano” on the right side, with just enough room for some “snow” on top of it (for fellow cruciverbalist hockeystix3 – luckily, just prior to the making of this, she told me that the mountain was a volcano). Then the positioning of the volcano gave me room to place a “dragonfly” (at least that’s what ZYX said it was). At that point, I saw that “dragonfly” and “crescent moon” were fairly close to each other – so that’s when I looked at the checked letters and made some decisions on where to place black squares around that area, depending on which positions I felt like I could place words in easily. Note that as I place black squares at the beginning and end of words I add here, I also have to black out the same pattern on the left side for when I get to filling in that section later. (I didn’t initially have the three-letter word at 30-down there. That one I had to put in later when I was making adjustments — I’ll get to this part later — but there was originally a longer word in that place that did intersect both words, and the word at the position of 6-Down used to be shorter.)
  • From there, I filled in the area in between the two words I had mentioned (including “meridian”, which the great caseyw690 decided was close enough to being related to his profile picture of a map), and then after that started working on the upper right area, making my way to the upper left area. It was smooth sailing for a bit, and I didn’t encounter too much trouble (and I also found an opportunity to include a “kitten”, for various other feline Sporclers out there).
  • Sometimes though, I have to think for a few minutes before finding a word that fits. At this point, I had just filled in “nobody” (a word partially related to the theme – I knew I had to put “doubts” somewhere else in the puzzle later on because “Nobody Doubts El_Dandy“), but one of the letters was part of a longer word that also intersected with the “shooting star” I placed at the beginning. I was looking at this:
    [?] _ _ O _ _ _ _ _ O
    The question mark is a space that I could have chosen to black out (I had freedom to decide that because I hadn’t touched the lower right area yet – I could have also separated them by placing a black square somewhere in the middle of this word but I wanted to connect them if possible)… then I decided to dig into my years of piano playing to come up with “sforzando” – yes, it’s quite evil, but it fits. Of course, it leaves a Z in a checked position, so that’s why I was forced to use a word like “seizable” to connect it with the E that I already had at the end of that word there (unless I wanted to add another black square to separate it into shorter words).
  • After filling in some remaining spaces in the upper left area (including “Paws”, the name of needapausebutton‘s cat), I was (essentially) done with the top half of the grid. That meant that the pattern of black squares was locked in on the bottom half (or more specifically, I couldn’t easily change the pattern without having to make adjustments in the top half).
  • From there on, while there were a few tough spots, I was still able to pull through – as I had already finished the alphabet by that point, I didn’t have to worry about having to include hard letters, but I still generally tried to focus on planning ahead to make sure I don’t get stuck. Since the pattern of black squares was already decided as the top half was filled out, options for me to place in more theme words was a bit more limited, but I still got a few in there (including a “rat” and a “teddy” bear).

However, one thing that happened in this crossword that doesn’t usually happen with non-themed crosswords is that sometimes I’d think of another word I should add after I already filled in the grid. This is where things get tough, because I may have to remake a whole section. I’d have to find the place where I can rework the new word in with the least trouble, erase some words in the surrounding area, and fill them in with new words. Luckily I was able to get some reworking done (and this is the point I had to even change the layout as mentioned before to include those three-letter words in the middle), but for future advice… try not to end up in positions where you have to do this (and I’ll admit that “quartzite” was another difficult word that got added during this reworking; I originally had “quintuple” in its place but had to change things when I couldn’t make other words fit). If you have theme ideas in mind, it’s better to prepare a fairly big list of things that fit the theme. While you may not fit all of them in the grid, you’ll be less likely to end up in a state of trying to rework the grid because you thought of something you desperately wanted to include after finishing. (There are several themed entries that I didn’t list in this post, but one of the more obscure references that made its way in was “forbidden”, which is a reference to the character Exodia the Forbidden One – I’ll admit that I looked that one up prior to putting it in.) And… of course, there are many other words that fit the theme, so I can keep including more of them as cameo appearances in my later crosswords. :)

So… that’s the story of how I made this crossword. (Note that once again, this is for British-style crosswords… I can’t begin to think about how much effort it would take to assemble an American-style crossword!) This will conclude this installment, but I will write one more post with some less in-depth stories of the inspiration of a few of my other crosswords. Take care! :)

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About AuroraIllumina

Meow! AuroraIllumina may or may not secretly be a cat in disguise... they choose not to confirm or deny that.
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