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If you're looking to hire me for a puzzlemaking assignment, either on a one-time basis or more regularly, there are a few things you should know.

I have a long history of making puzzles for advertisements, corporations, and so on (see my résumé for more details). So if you don't know much about crosswords, don't worry about it. Part of my job is to talk to you, figure out exactly what you need, determine what is feasible given the constraints of the job and the deadline, and to explain the whole process to you. You know what your client wants; I know how it can be done.

So, a FAQ on the process.

How much do you charge?
The price depends on a number of factors. Among the main considerations are: whether it's a one-time puzzle or a recurring assignment; who the client is; how complicated the puzzle is to create; and how short the deadline is. Because I keep pretty busy, I don't take many one-shot assignments anymore, and I charge accordingly. If you're on a tight budget, there are other puzzlemakers out there who charge less than I do; however, none of them has more experience creating specialty crosswords than I do.

How much time do you need to make a puzzle?
It depends on the size and complexity of the puzzle. In a pinch (and for the appropriate price) I may be able to make a puzzle within a week; I prefer to have several weeks at a minimum.

Do you provide camera-ready art?
Yes. I can provide files of the blank solving grid and the answer grid in various formats, including PDF and eps; I can also provide hard-copy printouts if need be. The clues are typically in a Microsoft Word file.

Do you only make crosswords, or can you make other sorts of puzzles as well?
I can create any sort of puzzle that does not involve original artwork (such as mazes or picture rebuses). I typically focus on word-related puzzles (such as crosswords, acrostics, word searches, and crisscrosses), though I can also create other types of puzzles (such as sudoku).

How hard will the puzzle be?
I can make puzzles of any difficulty level. For example, of the crosswords on this website, "Well, Excuse Me!" is an example of an easier crossword, and the Themeless Challengers are much more difficult. In general, if you want a specialty crossword made for a place that does not typically publish puzzles, you should probably keep it on the easy side.

I want all the words in the puzzle to be about my topic. Is that possible?
If you want a standard crossword puzzle, one that looks like the kind of puzzle you see in the newspaper every day, then the answer is no. The English language is not flexible enough for that. Crossword puzzles require lots of short, vowel-heavy words (like AREA and AGE) to make the other words fit. Furthermore, the dense interlock of crossword puzzles means that every word that you want used instantly imposes a number of restrictions on the surrounding words, which makes this sort of tight thematic restriction unworkable.

The percentage of words that are about your topic will depend on several things: whether you provide the word list or whether I have to do the research; how many on-topic words there are available; and how short those on-topic words are. Typically, the on-topic percentage varies from about 25% to 35% of the total number of words in the puzzle, though it might be higher or lower depending on the specifics of the assignment.

If you want a puzzle where every word is one of the words you specifically want, then you need a crisscross puzzle. Crisscrosses are not symmetric, and not every letter is used in both an across word and a down word (or, to put it another way, each word will only be crossed by a few other words at most). The downside is that this does not look like a newspaper crossword; the upside is that no words other than your on-topic words will be necessary.

For an example of how a specific list of words would look when turned into both a crossword and a crisscross, click here.

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