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How to Make Money by Creating and Selling Crossword Puzzles

Solving crossword puzzles is a great pastime for many. In particular regularly published crosswords in newspapers and magazines are popular to kill some idle time at home or when commuting to and from work. What you may not realize is that you can also earn money by creating those crosswords yourself.

Unlike other puzzles, such as word search puzzles, crosswords are often hand-made as it's not easy for computers to compose an aesthetically pleasing puzzle that is fun to solve with coherent words and clues. Crossword puzzles are often themed with words and clues that relate to that theme. This requires a human touch to create a quality crossword puzzle.

In this article I'll discuss how you can create crosswords for American newspapers. I'm not familiar with the situation in other countries but it might just work in your country too!

How much are crosswords worth?

The crosswords in popular newspapers, such as The New York Times and LA Times, are hand-made by people around the country. Crossword editors at these newspapers receive the submissions, check them for consistency and quality of the clues and then the crossword puzzle is published. If you like crossword puzzles then consider turning your puzzle solving experience into a way to earn some extra money.

For each crossword puzzle that is published, you get paid a certain amount of money depending on the publication. For example, crossword puzzles submitted to The New York Times will earn you more than other places for publication. A 15x15 crossword puzzle (weekdays) for The New York Times will earn you $200 and a larger 21x21 crossword puzzle (on Sunday) is worth $1000.

The prices at other newspapers or magazines vary from $50 to $200 for 15x15 puzzles and from $150 to $300 for 21x21 puzzles.

American crossword

American crossword

How hard is it to create a crossword?

Many crossword creators nowadays use software to compose word lists with themes and to edit the clues. Examples are Crossword Compiler, CrossDown and Across Lite. The first of these, Crossword Compiler, can be considered the de facto standard for crossword creation as it is widely used and rich in features.

The difficulty in creating a crossword comes from two parts: creating a grid with the words that you want in a beautifully connecting way and creating good and interesting clues.

  • Creating the grid: It can be difficult to create a grid with the words that you wish to place. The most basic requirements in modern American crossword grids are that all words have to intersect ( = each white cell belongs to two words) and it's mandatory to create a symmetrical pattern with the black blocks. In modern crosswords you can rotate a crossword 180 degrees and the pattern of black blocks is still the same.

    Computer software can help you to find words that intersect properly. If you create a list of words then it can help you to find words that fit into the grid and to fill them in. For the symmetry of the block pattern you can enable certain options in crossword editing software to make sure that it will also add the symmetrical block when you make a cell black.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that you want to avoid words that are boring or unknown. This is called crosswordese: words that make it easier to fill the grid but that are not commonly used or known words. When a part of the grid is troublesome to fill with words, you could use these words but it's generally frowned upon if you have too many of these words.
  • Creating the clues: Each word in the crossword puzzle needs to have a clue. The way you write the clues and how they are phrased can help with the theme and difficulty of the puzzle. When you submit a crossword to a newspaper the crossword editor in charge can also alter the clues to adjust the difficulty of the puzzle.

    Clues can be straight-forward, such as 'Capital of the Netherlands' (for 'amsterdam') but also tricky, such as 'Bring up the rear?' (for 'moon', referring to the at of mooning). These tricky clues tend to have a question mark at the end so you know as solver that you need to think in a different way.

Can I get rich by creating crosswords?

That depends on your standard of 'rich' but you can earn some additional income if you're good at it. It takes time and effort to create each puzzle and if published, the time was well-spent. You can submit puzzles to various publications and you'll be notified if the puzzle does indeed gets published. You'd need to create a lot of crossword puzzles to earn a lot of money and the hourly wage (hours spent versus money earned) may not be that much compared to day jobs.

You should see it as a way to combine your interest in puzzles with the possibility of earning money along the way. Nonetheless, some crossword creators are quite prolific. Even a few crosswords make for some nicely earned cash. I'm not saying it's easy but this goes to show that many things can be turned into money making opportunities if you're good at something.

Some of the most prolific crossword creators for The New York Times have had well over a hundred of their crosswords published. It's not too difficult to see that they've earned a nice amount of money over the years. For example, have a look at the following overview to get an idea (it's not exactly what they earned though, see the commentary there): New York Times crossword authors by monetary value.

Where can I find publisher specifications?

You can find submission instructions for American publications at (look on the left for Publisher Specifications).

For more information about The New York Times crossword in particular, please see:

This article was written by Simeon Visser. I am earning money online by writing here at Would you like to earn money online as well? Read the success stories and sign up today to get started!


Carla Mauney on November 14, 2017:

Asking about book crossword puzzles. Not the ones in the Newspaper. How do I go about doing that? Do I make out the words, and titles of the crossword puzzles?

mary elder on November 07, 2017:

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I have created several logic puzzles and would like to know how to make money. I had one book published but prefer to submit on a timely bases to a magazine

Ron Crawford on March 25, 2015:

Really informative. Thank you.

KristinaMPitts on September 01, 2014:

Great article.

addins on November 15, 2013:

I do love puzzles very much as it is very refreshing while leisure period. Please be informed that I am not able to view the same in the site .It would be grateful if you could upload it once again

sdsd on November 14, 2013:


Mary Wickison from USA on April 21, 2013:

What an interesting way to make some extra money. I will be sharing this.

nathaniel9200 on February 08, 2012:

I liked your article I found it interesting and very use full I like writing wordsearches and would be interested in writing a wordsearch for someone like a Newspapper or magazine.

simeonvisser (author) on December 30, 2011:

@oliver klozoff: Thanks, I think your explanation makes a lot more sense for that clue. I've updated the article.

oliver klozoff on December 21, 2011:

"Bring up the rear" is a reference to "mooning", showing your ass by pulling your pants down...not to the actual moon.

simeonvisser (author) on March 15, 2011:

Thanks Prasetio :)

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on March 15, 2011:

Nice information. I love crossword puzzles. Thanks for writing this. Rated up. Take care!


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