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Crossword Submission Guidelines - The New York Sun


Crossword Submission Guidelines - The New York Sun

Crossword Construction

Dave Fisher

New York Sun Crossword Puzzle:

The New York Sun, a New York City broadsheet newspaper, publishes five days a week (Monday to Friday) and includes a 15x15 crossword in every issue. The puzzles have titles and full-size author bylines.

Puzzles increase in difficulty through the week. Monday puzzles are approachable by novice solvers, while Friday puzzles are a challenge even to experienced solvers.

Below are the guidelines for the puzzles. Note that virtually every rule set forth here can be broken if the theme warrants it, but check with the editor first. Editor: Peter Gordon.

Basic Rules:

  • Puzzles must be of the highest quality;
  • Puzzles can be themed or unthemed;
  • No maximum number of words in the grid or maximum number of black squares, but 78 words and 38 black squares are good guidelines;
  • No maximum on the number of three-letter words, but the fewer the better
  • Puzzles that are 16 boxes high (by 15 wide) are also accepted, but check with the editor first.

Themed Puzzles:

  • Minimum of three answers in the grid must be themed; should be the longest answers in the puzzle;
  • Theme should be consistent throughout the puzzle;
  • The title should give a hint to the theme without using any of the words in the theme answers.
  • Themes, filler entries, and clues that relate to New York City are particularly welcome.

Unthemed Puzzles:

There are two types of themeless puzzles, titled Themeless Thursday and Weekend Warrior. The Themeless Thursdays appears every third Thursday and the Weekend Warriors every third Friday. The puzzles should be made difficult not by using obscure words, but by using tricky clues. There shouldn’t be anything unfamiliar in the finished puzzle grid.


  • Maximum 72 words;
  • No minimum number of words, but quality is important;
  • Themeless Thursday should pose a challenge for an intermediate solver and a mild workout for an expert solver.
  • Weekend Warrior must pose a severe challenge even to the most expert solver.

Things to Avoid:

  • Variant spellings;
  • Partial phrases;
  • Contrived word forms (UNLEAKY, PREEXCITE, REDEVOUR);
  • Unfamiliar abbreviations;
  • Obscure names;
  • Crosswordese;
  • British spellings that aren’t known to Americans (COLOUR is fine, LIBELLED is not);
  • Prefixes and suffixes that aren’t used with any common word;
  • Made-up phrases;
  • Anything labeled vulgar or offensive in the dictionary;
  • Obscure geography;
  • Two answers in the same puzzle that have the same form of a word (like FOREMEN and ICEMAN).

Words in the Grids:

Things to strive for:

  • Rare letter combinations and letters (GQMAGAZINE, SUZIEQ, KPDUTY, KENNYG);
  • Interesting new words, names, and phrases (THEMATRIXRELOADED);

Foreign Words: Dos and Don'ts:

  • Spanish words that one might encounter or hear on the streets of New York are acceptable;
  • French words that one might remember from first-year high school French are fine;
  • For other foreign languages, limit yourself to the most common words, like NYET and DANKE;
  • Foreign words that have entered English or are part of well-known foreign phrases are fine.


Clues should be a mix of all topics of interest to a cultured newspaper reader. Avoid clues that reference other clues, i.e. if 7D is APPLE and 19A is GRANNYSMITH, do not clue 19A as Type of 7-Down. There are two exceptions to this rule. The first is that theme entries can refer to each other. The second is when you have two words that form a phrase, such as SAN and DIEGO. If 1A is SAN and 10D is DIEGO, clue 10D as See 1A and 1A as With 10D, a city in California. So except for theme clues, when a clue refers to another clue, that clue must always refer back to the original clue.



Payment is made on publication after signing a contract giving up all rights and warranting that the puzzle is original and has never been published before in any form. The edited clues will be e-mailed back to the author before publication.

Where to Submit:

Puzzles should be submitted by e-mail to Peter Gordon at xwords {AT} optonline.net. Puzzles should be submitted in parts: first the theme or mini-theme (unless there isn’t any), then the grid, then the clued puzzle.

  • For the theme, submit the title, the day of the week you think the puzzle should run, and the theme entries and clues.
  • Please indicate if the puzzle needs to run on a particular date;
  • Give plenty of lead time (three months at least) before publication date.
  • Include your name as you want it to appear in the newspaper, your postal address, phone number, and social security number.
  • Answers must be in capital letters with no spaces (with nothing in bold, italics, or underlined), as they will appear in the answer grid.
  • Do NOT explain what the theme is.
  • Each puzzle should be sent in a separate email.
  • Don't have more than one theme submission and one grid submission pending at any one time.
  • Don’t zip attachments.
Once the theme is approved, submit the grid, preferably in Crossword Compiler for Windows format. If you don’t have CCW, use Crossdown or just type the grid as text in the body of the e-mail. Once the grid has been approved, then write the clues and e-mail it back.


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