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Crossword Submission Guidelines - The Chronicle of Higher Education


Crossword Submission Guidelines - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Crossword Construction

Dave Fisher

About The Chronicle:

The The Chronicle of Higher Education, published weekly, is the academic world’s major source of news and information. The crossword will appear in The Chronicle’s Review section except on rare occasions when the entire Review is devoted to a given topic, for a total of roughly 40 published puzzles per year. Author bylines will be included.

Crossword Puzzle Submissions Wanted:

Puzzles submitted to The Chronicle should be themed 15x15 crosswords of the highest quality. The standard grid rules apply:
  • Word count: 78 or less
  • Maximum 38 black squares
  • Must be symmetrical
  • No two-letter words
  • No unchecked letters
  • * Exceptions may be made for very ambitious themes
Avoid grids that can be divided in two by blackening either two symmetrical squares or the center square.

Rights and Payments:

Payment of $125 will be made on publication. Constructor must sign and return a contract stating that the work is original and has never been published elsewhere, either in print or electronically. The Chronicle has all rights, including first rights.


The theme should have a minimum of three answers, which should be the longest entries in the puzzle, and should be original, interesting, and internally consistent.

Because the Chronicle’s readership is centered in academe, themes that relate to topics such as literature, the arts, science, history, philosophy, and education are preferred. Themes based on wordplay are also acceptable.

The following themes are always unwelcome: themes based on celebrity names, movie and TV shows, brand names, and other pop-culture topics; themes involving repeated words; and themes that have been used too many times before.


The puzzle should include a title. Try to pick one that cleverly hints at the theme without completely giving it away. Avoid reusing words from the theme entries in your title.

Grid entries:

Desirable fill entries include lively words and phrases with unusual letters and letter patterns (KARAOKE, BANZAI, ON THE QT), and entries that relate to the topics mentioned above. Entries that reference pop culture (JAY-Z, SPIDER-MAN, BIG MAC) should be minimized.

Acceptable foreign entries include common pronouns, low numbers, greetings and farewells, words commonly seen on restaurant menus, and words used in famous quotes and titles.

Partial phrases such as IF I and IN THE should be kept to a minimum. Words such as OF, AND, or THE can be repeated if part of a larger entry (ex. PIECE OF CAKE).

Types of entries to avoid:

  • Obscure names and terms, including crosswordese.
  • Unfamiliar variant spellings.
  • Uncommon abbreviations, prefixes, and suffixes.
  • Words that are vulgar or offensive, or refer to unsavory topics.
  • Contrived uses of prefixes and suffixes (VALORS, ELATER, UNBAKE, RETALKED, SHIRTLIKE).
  • Made-up phrases (BIG STEAK, METAL PEN) and questionable phrases (IS WEARY, THROW TO).
  • Foreign words the average English speaker is unlikely to know.
  • Multi-word partial phrases longer than five letters.
Avoid repeating forms of words, i.e. if you use SNOWMAN, don't use other forms of SNOW and MAN in the puzzle.


The layout of the puzzle is designed to accommodate slightly longer clues than the average venue. The difficulty of the clues should roughly match that of a Wednesday or Thursday New York Times puzzle. Use a good mix of clue styles: straight definitions, humorous definitions, deceptive phrasings, and interesting trivia. Single-word definitions should be used sparingly. When possible, bend clues toward intellectual subjects; so, for instance, clue MONROE as the president or the college, not Marilyn. You may use linked clues when cluing theme entries, or when two entries form a two-word phrase such as RUN AMOK.

Clues: Things to Avoid:

Avoid writing clues that refer to other clues, like “1-Down, for one” to link the entry COLOR to BLUE. Try to avoid reusing entry words in your clues, unless the words in question are very common.

Where to Submit:

Constructors are encouraged to run themes by Crossword Editor Patrick Berry before beginning construction.

Submissions should be made via email:
Patrick Berry, Crossword Editor xwords {AT} chronicle.com

Supply only the title, the theme entries, and their clues, without additional explanation. (If a theme can’t be understood without additional explanation, that’s a problem!) If a puzzle is meant to appear on a specific date, however, you should mention it; and be sure to give at least three months’ lead time.

The preferred submission format is Crossword Compiler for Windows; Across Lite and CrossDown are also acceptable. If you don’t have any of those, type or cut and paste the puzzle into the body of your email: First the title, then your name, then the grid (using periods to signify black squares), and finally the clues. Use the format number[tab]clue[return] for clues; don’t include the answers after the clues. (If you cite a source in a clue, use the format number[tab]clue[tab]source[return].)

Before submitting any puzzles, please print out and carefully study the complete guidelines available here in print-friendly format.

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