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The Crosswords Club and the Uptown Puzzle Club seek sophisticated 21x21 puzzles with innovative themes and lively clues for its upscale membership. Please review these guidelines carefully before submitting any puzzles.


  • All puzzles must have an appropriate title and blurb, which should not use any keywords that are used in the theme answers.

  • Theme queries are encouraged, and receive priority in answering. Before constructing your puzzle, you may send your proposed title, theme entries and theme clues to me for review. Send your e-mail to

  • Be sure to include references for any answer whose source is not obvious, or an answer that is not easily looked up in a standard reference source.

  • Your non-theme clues should require general knowledge of contemporary culture (names in the news, TV, books, pop music, sports, films, etc.), to be balanced with clues requiring general knowledge of traditional subjects (history, classical music and literature, etc.). However, please don't overload the grid with names and know-it-or-not answers. The large majority of non-theme answers should be everyday words and phrases.

  • Clue common dictionary words in lively, original ways, such as with contemporary idioms ("Kept out of sight" for HID, "Chow down" for EAT, etc.). Avoid overuse of single-word synonyms lifted from a thesaurus.

  • Longer non-theme answer words should be lively and evocative (CHILL OUT, CBS NEWS, etc.).

  • Always provide a parenthetical subsidiary clue for "fill-in-the-blanks" that are the names of song titles, books, films and the like, unless the work is extremely well known. "__ Rhythm" is OK, but add something like "(Clooney tune)" to "Botch-__."

  • Use some "extra-effort" clues; straightforward clues that provide interesting information, particularly about frequently seen answers (ERIE is the deepest Great Lake, HOME is the last word of The Wizard of Oz, etc.).

  • Humor and wordplay are welcome and encouraged, but they should be of your own creation. In particular, overused clues like "First lady" for EVE should be avoided.

  • Keep in mind that a puzzle with an acceptable theme is likely to be returned if the non-theme clues and answers do not follow these guidelines.


  • Themes involving repetition of the same word or rhyming words;

  • Themes involving wordplay where the theme answers are not otherwise related, or wordplay that is not consistently carried out;

  • Themes or theme answers that require specialized knowledge to understand or appreciate, such as the names of football coaches or Beach Boys tunes;

  • Overly regional references, such as subway-name abbreviations, names of small towns, and brand names that are not nationally known;

  • References to death, disease, drugs, or sex;

  • Unusual or obscure words in clues or theme answers;

  • Overused themes (like flowers, colors, animals, and parts of the body), unless you give them a new twist; Repetition or near-repetition of non-theme words (such as OVERSEE and SEEN).

  • Trite clues for words that can be otherwise defined in a lively, accessible manner

  • Unusual/obscure answer words: Any word that is unlikely to be seen or heard outside of crossword puzzles. An obscure rock musician or soap-opera actress is as equally taboo as a Eurasian mongoose or Phoenician goddess. Your puzzle ideally should have NO obscure words. A puzzle may be returned if it has obscure words.

  • Uncommon forms of common words (REHELPED, INCLUDERS, etc.).

  • Combining forms, variant spellings, and common words that can be defined in only one common way (ABABA, ALAI, etc.) should be used sparingly.

  • Keep partial phrases with A (TAKE A, A DAY, etc.) to a minimum. More than two or three in a puzzle may necessitate a revision.

  • There should be as few extremely easy clues as possible; save these for fill-in-the-blank clues.

Miscellaneous Guidelines

ABOUT PROPER NAMES: Use of the names of people and places enhances a puzzle, especially when the names are drawn from all over: 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, in our opinion, turn it into a trivia contest. Please avoid overuse of people's names, or any other material that falls under the either-you-know-it-or-you-don't category. If you have no choice but to use a difficult name or place, make sure it doesn't cross something equally difficult in the grid. Always reference tough names.

Maximum answers: 144.

Difficulty: medium to difficult. A puzzle should be made difficult by tricky clues and/or wide-open diagrams, never by obscure words or clues.

Timely themes (for holidays, particular times of the year, etc.) are welcome, but should be sent at least six months ahead of time. Please note in your submission that seasonal material is enclosed.

Submission Format

Preferred format is electronic (e-mail) submission using Crossword Compiler for Windows Version 6 or lower. Under File/Crossword Information, put your name in the Author field and your address and SS# in the Description field. Under Clue Properties, please check "right-aligned" and leave the "with period" box unchecked.

Puzzles may also be submitted in any format supported by CCW, which includes Crossdown and Across Lite text.

E-mail puzzle files to xwordclub [AT]

Snail-mail submissions are also welcome. Put your title/name/address/SS# at the top. Format is then columnar: Clue #/Clue/Answer on each line, double-spaced. It isn't necessary to enclose a solving grid. Send such submissions to:

Rich Norris
15063 Miami Rd.
Apple Valley, CA 92307


Payment of $300 will be made in the month of publication; a copy of your puzzle as published will be mailed to you separately.

Payment covers all rights in all media.

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