Submissions are now closed. We will continue to accept Sunday puzzle submissions through our email, email@example.com. We will reopen normal submissions on January 3, 2023, and you will be able to submit up to three puzzles. We will still be reviewing already submitted puzzles while we are closed, so you may still hear from us while submissions are closed. In the meantime, please review our submission guidelines below in preparation for when we reopen in January. We can’t wait to see what you’ve been working on!
A New York Times crossword will be a collaboration between you and our staff of editors, who will seek to preserve your voice while making the puzzle as enjoyable as possible for solvers. This page of guidelines is a living document and reflects our current best practices on crossword construction.
A summary of what we look for:
Lively fill, with words, phrases and names that solvers know or can infer from the crossings.
Original, on-target clues, pitched at the puzzle’s intended difficulty level, including a variety of cultural reference points.
No more than three puzzles pending at a time.
What we could use more of: Thursday and Sunday puzzles that don’t involve a rebus.
Themes should be fresh, interesting, narrowly defined and consistently applied throughout the puzzle. For example, if the theme includes a particular kind of pun, then all the puns should be of that kind. Themes and theme entries should be accessible to everyone. We generally prefer puzzles with playful themes rather than straightforward subjects.
Constructors should emphasize lively words, well-known names and fresh phrases. Common words that lend themselves to interesting and imaginative cluing angles are encouraged.
Diversity in cultural references — for age, gender, ethnicity, etc. — is desired.
Avoid offensive language. Be mindful of words that might impact solvers negatively. Non-English words are allowed, so long as they are familiar or inferable to people who don’t speak the language.
Avoid uncommon abbreviations and partial phrases longer than five letters (“So ___” for BE IT would be permissible, while “So ___” for IT GOES would not.)
Keep crosswordese to a minimum — that is, answers that appear far more in crosswords than in real life (ERNE, ASTA, ARETE, YSER, etc.). Difficult words are fine — especially for the harder daily puzzles that run late in the week — if the words are interesting bits of knowledge or useful additions to the vocabulary. However, never let two obscure words or names cross.
Clues should reflect the difficulty of the puzzle. Our difficulty scale increases through the week, with the easiest puzzles on Monday and hardest on Saturday. Sunday puzzles should reflect midweek difficulty levels.
Clues should be fresh, colorful and precise. Try to be original, and inject humor where possible. Themeless clues should be more difficult and require imaginative thinking. Show us your wit and wordplay!
For example, for the answer STRAP:
Monday clue: “Subway rider’s handhold”
Wednesday clue: “Part of a bike helmet”
Saturday clue: “What might keep a watch on you”
Constructor Tools and Tips
There are many options for making a crossword puzzle, including the good, old-fashioned graph-paper-and-pencil method, though several software programs exist as well. For a full list of these programs, as well as tips from New York Times constructors and editors on the puzzle making process, see our series on How to Make a Crossword Puzzle.
While we encourage new and creative crossword themes, there are a few hard rules (broken with extreme rarity) when it comes to constructing New York Times crosswords. These include:
Crosswords must have black square symmetry, which typically comes in the form of 180-degree rotational symmetry;
Crosswords must have all-over interlock;
Crosswords must not have unchecked squares (i.e., all letters must be found in both Across and Down answers);
All answers must be at least 3 letters long;
Black squares should be used in moderation.
Maximum Word Count
78 words for a 15×15 (72 for a themeless); 140 for a 21×21. Maximums may be exceeded slightly at the editor’s discretion, if the theme warrants.
Times puzzles must never have been published anywhere before, either in print or electronically. The Times buys all rights, including first rights.
Due to the volume of submissions:
Please limit yourself to no more than three puzzles in the queue at once.
We count collaborations as half for each byline.
If your collaborator has never been published by the Times, the puzzle will not count toward your total.
All crossword constructing programs have settings to create PDFs in the proper submission format, as follows:
Clues should be double-spaced on the left, answer words in a corresponding column on the far right.
Down clues need not begin on a new page.
Include a filled-in answer grid with numbers.
Include your name, address and email address on the grid page.
Please label your files LastName_PuzzleTitle for ease of editor review. Puzzle titles can be the theme revealers for daily themed puzzles or marquee entries for themeless puzzles.
An example is shown below, which you can download as a pdf.
If you need more help, take a look at our resource guide.
Who is working on puzzles
Lead puzzle editor
Senior puzzle editor
Digital puzzle editor
Associate puzzle editor
Associate puzzle editor
Payment varies based on the day of the week and number of puzzles you’ve had published with The New York Times.
Published 1 – 2
Monday – Saturday
15 x 15
21 x 21
Puzzle Submission Form
Submissions are now closed. We will continue to accept Sunday puzzle submissions through our email, firstname.lastname@example.org. We will reopen normal submissions on January 3, 2023.