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Tuesday, April 23, 2024 — Houston, TX

Crossword Submission Policy

Thresher puzzles are usually 15x15, but can be 10x10, 12x12, 14x16, 21x21, etc. We’ll consider any puzzle where the two numbers add up to 20 or more. Most puzzles are themed, but we’re willing to consider themeless puzzles as well. 

As for guidelines/rules in this spec sheet: any guideline can be broken if the puzzle warrants it – email hmn2@rice.edu if you want to double-check. 


Themed puzzles must have at least three themed answers. Traditionally, these answers are the longest in the puzzle, but theme entries of any length are acceptable. Theme words should be consistent throughout the puzzle. For example, for a theme about the traditional elements, if you start theme words with elements (WATERWORKS, FIREWALL), don’t have a theme word where the element ends the word (ex. DOWNTOEARTH). Similarly, avoid themes that repeat words, including in the title. As an example of what not to do, our crossword “Do the Worm” had theme words INCHWORM, SILKWORM, TAPEWORM, BOOKWORM. Try to have fun with your theme and title – we aim for an enjoyable solving experience, not just a difficult or standard one. 

Some puzzle outlets ask for theme queries, or a list of the theme entries and prospective grid placement. We don’t require this, but welcome queries if any constructors would like.


Grids are variable, but should not contain any words with fewer than three letters. Grids should be open, with no sections completely cut off from any other. We don’t mandate a maximum number of words or maximum number of black squares. That said, we aim for black squares to cover no more than 16-20% of the grid. 


Above all else, we look for words and clues that expand the crossword canon beyond its mostly white, male history. If you think a word or clue may be too obscure because a typical crossword solver may not get it, feel free to put it in anyway: we don’t write for a typical audience. 

That said, avoid crosswordese, or words that occur more often in crosswords than everyday language, like ANTE, SSW, etc.; and obscure words that very few people would get (ex. HIED, PACA, ARAI, etc.). Other things to avoid: partial phrases (ex. HELLINA), constructed phrases (WARMDEC, NOONECANFOOLIT), repeating similar words in the same grid (ex. ORB and ORBITAL), and tough words from foreign languages. Nuance for foreign languages: words people may know from first-year language courses or from aspects of culture (food, dance, music, etc.) are fine and encouraged. 


We like interdisciplinary clues, from a broad range of backgrounds and cultures. If you want to reference a Vine, a classical Indian dance, and a traditional Ethiopian dish in the same section – by all means, please do it. 


  • If the clue has a trick to it, end it with a question mark, ex. “What Benjamin Button does?” for EGA (age backwards lol)
  • Make sure to use the verb form of the answer in the clue, ex. “Consumes injera” for EATS, not consumed or consume
  • Plural answers should have plural markers in their clues, ex. “Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500” for RACES (as opposed to using “or”), or “Balls” for SPHERES (as opposed to “Ball”)
  • Shortened/abbreviated answers must be indicated in some way, ex. “Verizon competitor, abbr.” for ATT or “UK finance university” for LSE
    • Other options include: for short, in short, briefly, colloquially, to fans, familiarly 
    • Avoid confusion by only using these conventions for answers that are abbreviated. Otherwise, spell out everything in the clue
  • Avoid using other words present in the grid when cluing. 


Email a pdf and .puz version of your puzzle to Hoang Nguyen at hmn2@rice.edu.

We’ll get back to you within two weeks.

Constructing Resources

We use https://jmviz.github.io/Phil/ or https://crosserville.com to construct puzzles and https://www.spreadthewordlist.com/wordlist for our wordlist. 

For determining words and clues: https://onelook.com and http://crosswordtracker.com.  

Last updated April 27, 2023