Well, the fad has subsided but the crossword puzzle remains a daily pleasure for many people and an important element in practically every newspaper as well as many magazines and newsletters. With the advent of the Internet the venerable crossword has been adapted to the digital age and is more ubiquitous now than ever before. There are almost ten million results for "crossword puzzles" in an Internet search. Puzzles come in all shapes and sizes. The world's largest crossword puzzle has over 28,000 clues while the Zen crossword puzzle has two clues and one white square.
So, how are these puzzles produced in quantities sufficient to satisfy the puzzler's never-ending appetite for better crosswords with brighter fill and cleverer clues? Whereas the pioneers used pencil and grid paper and manually slogged through dictionaries, encyclopediae and atlases looking to avoid as much obscurity as possible, today there are computer programs which do much of the grunt work when filling a grid.
These programs rely on word lists to produce an acceptable fill. This is where a comprehensive word list is an invaluable tool for creating a quality puzzle. People don't want clues like "Hindu foot soldier" or "Deep-sea encephalopod". Modern crossword solvers demand lively fill that uses a mix of common, everyday words (with clever clues), trendy terms, edgy phrases, popular brand names and five-star celebrities.
A word list needs to be constantly updated (note to self: add "gangnam style" to word list) and, more importantly, word lists need to be screened for offensive or inappropriate words: No death, disease, sexual or scatalogical references. Then the remainder of the words will need to be manually scored so that the program uses the most desirable words first and the more obscure entries only as a last resort.
Many constructors have spent a lifetime building top-notch word lists. Fortunately for the newbie constructor, there are many good word lists on the Internet to get you started. That being said, start adding to and building your own custom word lists right away. Over time, they will grow to be an indispensable tool for the making of marketable puzzles.