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Crossword Submission Guidelines - The Los Angeles Times


Crossword Construction

Crossword Construction

Dave Fisher

LA Times Crossword Puzzle:

Tribune Media Services publishes the LA Times Crossword daily in 15x15 size and on Sundays in 21x21 size. For daily puzzles, 15x16 may be acceptable if the theme warrants it. Please query first.



Basic Requirements

  • Puzzle words must interlock throughout.
  • Grid patterns must be symmetrical. Rotational symmetry is the norm. Right-left symmetry is acceptable if the theme requires it. An asymmetrical grid will be considered if its a's theme-reated.
  • Maximum word counts: 78 for 15x15, 72 for Saturday 15x15, 144 for 21x21.
  • Maximum black squares: 43 for 15x15. No fixed limit for 21x21 but above 80 is iffy.


  • No numerals or symbols of any kind.
  • Only the letters A through Z can be in a grid box, one letter per box.
  • Don’t use the letter I or O as the number 1 or 0 in a crossing answer. The only time such dual meanings are allowed is when one answer is a Roman numeral.

Partial phrases

  • Partials are those short multiword entries that require a fill-in clue, such as WAR OF, A BIRD, AS WE, etc. There’s nothing wrong with these entries as long as they aren’t overdone.

    Our limits:
    15x15 – maximum 5 letters, 2 partials per puzzle
    21x21 – maximum 5 letters, 4 partials per puzzle (though a 6-letter partial may be allowed)

Proper Names

  • Names of people and places enhances a puzzle when drawn from TV, movies, literature, music, science, etc.
  • A variety of names scattered about the grid can challenge solvers and help expand their knowledge base.
  • Too many names turn it into a trivia contest.
  • Please avoid overuse names or other material that falls into 'either-you-know-it-or-you-don't' category.
  • If you have to use a difficult name/place, be sure it doesn't cross an equally difficult entry in the grid.
  • Always reference tough names.




Basic Requirements

We only use titles in Sunday puzzles, not in daily ones. Your daily theme either should be explained/hinted at by a theme answer near the bottom of the grid, or it should be obvious enough for solvers to spot without help. Themes should be fresh and consistently constructed. In general, avoid clichéd themes (colors, animals, etc.), although a new approach to an old theme will be considered. Daily puzzles should have at least 3 theme entries, with a minimum of 35 theme squares. Sunday puzzles should have at least 6 theme entries, minimum 84 theme squares.

No Rebus Themes

However, we have allowed other kinds of deceptive themes, such as answers that turn a corner. Themes highlighted via circled letters are used in moderation. If you have an unorthodox theme in mind that isn’t a rebus, please query.

Themeless (Saturday only)

For themeless puzzles, use plenty of lively, familiar, contemporary words and phrases. Avoid obscurities and especially obscure abbreviations. If you aren't sure about what's obscure, either query us or don't use it.


Difficulty Levels:


  • Difficulty ranges from easy (Monday/Tuesday) to moderately hard (Friday/Saturday) and increases through the week.
  • Sunday puzzles are of moderate difficulty.
  • Match the difficulty of your clues to the type of theme.
  • Puzzles with straightforward themes should have easy clues.
  • Puzzles with cleverly hidden themes or wordplay should have harder clues.
  • Themeless puzzles should always have moderately hard clues.
  • Sunday puzzles should be of moderate (midweek) difficulty regardless of theme type.


Things to Avoid:


  • Two-letter words
  • Overuse of three-letter words and partial phrases
  • Clumsy, made-up or strained phrases;
  • Uncommon abbreviations and obscurities
  • Tasteless or graphically medical entries, i.e. most diseases, blatant drug references
  • Crosswordese, including but not limited to ERNE, ESNE, ANOA, AROA, etc.
  • Avoid variant spellings in all but the direst constructing emergencies
  • Awkward constructions such as AS A FIDDLE, ROCK AND, etc.
  • Foreign words whose definitions are not well known or obvious
  • Use of brand names, abbreviations, and foreign words should be kept to a minimum and use only what is well known or obvious.


About Proper Names:


  • Use of the names of people and places enhances a puzzle when drawn from TV, movies, literature, music, science, etc.
  • A variety of names scattered about the grid can challenge solvers and help expand their knowledge base.
  • Too many names in a puzzle turns it into a trivia contest.
  • Avoid overuse of people's names or any material in the eit'her-you-know-it-or-you-don't' category.
  • If you have no choice, make sure it doesn't cross something equally difficult in the grid.
  • Always reference tough names.




  • Clues should be timely, clever, amusing, fresh.
  • Avoid long-forgotten actors, athletes, films, songs, events, etc.
  • Make clues specific (i.e., not "Man's name").
  • Avoid overuse of one-word clues that are thesaurus synonyms.
  • Make picturesque clues and vary their length.




  • If you had to look it up, we will also, so cite your reference.
  • If it's an unusual reference, enclose a copy of the page with your submission.
  • Common sense should dictate when a reference is required.
  • CC8 has a box in which you can enter a clue citation. Use it when appropriate.



Acceptable Formats

  • All versions of Crossword Compiler (CCW), Crossdown, and Across Lite text. You can create the latter using a text editor. Instructions are available from Across Lite web site.
  • Puzzles submitted using a demo edition of CCW will not be accepted.
  • In CC8 add name in 'Author' field and address/SS# in 'Description' field.
  • For a Sunday puzzle, be sure the title appears in the 'Title' field.
  • Under Clue Properties, check the "right-aligned" box. Uncheck the "with period" box.
  • If you use Crossdown, please be sure to put your address and SS# in the text of the e-mail itself.
  • If you use any other format, please find a way to provide your vital information.


  • Theme queries are permitted for Sunday 21x21 puzzles only.
  • Puzzle title, theme answers, and theme clues must all be included with your query.
  • For daily 15x15 puzzles, a complete manuscript is required, grid and clues.
  • No more than 2 puzzles attached to any email.
  • Feel free to submit new puzzles even if you haven’t heard from us regarding a recent submission.

Naming your puzzle file

Your filename should be your last name plus:
  • For daily puzzles: Brief theme description (e.g., Johnson birds)
  • For Saturday puzzles: 1-Across answer (e.g.: Johnson QUIZSHOW)
  • For Sunday puzzles: Title (e.g.: Johnson My Sunday Title)


  • Name your file the same way but include REV at the end of the file name.
  • Put the word REVISED or REVISION in your email subject line.
  • If we haven’t specifically asked for a revision, please don’t send one.

Response time

  • For original submissions, 3 to 8 weeks.
  • For revisions, 1 to 2 weeks.

NOTE: Puzzles are edited at least three months prior to publication, so keep this in mind when constructing puzzles for particular occasions.


Daily, $85; Sunday, $250.


E-MAIL ONLY. Snail-mail submissions will be returned.

E-mail puzzle files to: xwordrich@aol.com

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