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LA Times Specification - Updated October 2011


as syndicated by Tribune Media Services, Inc.


Rich Norris, Editor

Patti Varol, Assistant

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.


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


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, please. Feel free to submit new puzzles even if you haven’t heard from us regarding a recent submission.

Acceptable formats

All versions of Crossword Compiler for Windows (CCW), Crossdown, and Across Lite text. You can create the latter using any simple text editor. Instructions are available with Across Lite software, which is free at many online sites.

Puzzles submitted using the demo edition of CCW will not be accepted. We feel that if you’re trying to earn money making crosswords, the least you can do is invest in the software.

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., Smith QUIZSHOW

for Sunday puzzles, title

Information required with submission

Put the second part of the above filename in your subject line.

List your theme entries and theme clues in the body of your email.

If you’re new, relatively new, or don’t submit often, please be sure to sign your email with your full name. This is especially helpful if your screen name bears no resemblance to your real name.

If you use CCW, under File/Crossword Information, please put your name in the Author field and your address and SSN in the Description field. If this is a Sunday puzzle, be sure the title appears in the Title field. Under Clue Properties, please check the "right-aligned" box, but leave the "with period" box unchecked.

If you use any other format, please find a way to provide your vital information.


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.


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 (a) ask, or (b) don't use it.


Basic requirements

Puzzle words must interlock throughout; grid patterns must be symmetrical (but see Symmetry below).

Maximum word counts: 78 for 15x15, 72 for Saturday 15x15 themeless, 144 for 21x21.

Maximum black square count: 43 for 15x15. No fixed limit for 21x21 but you’re taking a chance if you go much above 80.


Rotational symmetry—where the grid looks the same upside down as it does right side up—is the norm. Right-left symmetry is also acceptable if the theme requires it. An asymmetrical grid will only be considered if its asymmetry is theme-related.


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

Using 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 in 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.

Things to Avoid

Two-letter words; overuse of three-letter words; clumsy, made-up or strained phrases; uncommon abbreviations; obscurities; tasteless or graphically medical entries, including most diseases; blatant drug references; crossword clichés (crosswordese), including but not limited to ONER, ESNE, ANOA, AROA, etc. Avoid variant spellings in all but the most dire constructing emergencies. Keep abbreviations reasonable—no more than 10% of the word count. Keep foreign words to a minimum as well, and use only those the meaning of which is either well known or obvious.


Basic requirements

Wherever possible, clues should be timely, clever, amusing, fresh. While it’s fine to consult an online database for clue ideas, we frown on puzzles in which most clues have been copied from such sources. Make clues specific (i.e., not "Man's name"). Avoid overuse of one-word clues that are thesaurus synonyms. Also avoid overuse of wordy clues, since newspaper space is often limited. Make your clues picturesque, and vary their length.


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.


If you had to look it up, chances are good that we will, also, so cite your reference. Common sense should dictate when a reference is required. CCW has a box in which you can enter a clue citation. Please remember to use it when appropriate.

E-mail puzzle files to:

PAYMENT: Daily, $85; Sunday, $250.

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