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Diagramless Crossword Puzzles

For those of you who are interested, diagramless crosswords are the same as regular crosswords with two exceptions:

  • The black cells are not already filled in for you, and
  • the answer numbers are not already filled in for you in the upper-left corners.

So, you not only have to answer the clues but you also have turn that entirely featureless grid into a regular crossword grid by figuring out where the black cells are and marking them as such and by figuring out where all the clue numbers go in the upper left corners and writing them in in tiny print.  For many of the clues you have to guess how long the answer is.

If you've never tried a diagramless, they might seem impossible from the description I've given, but they definitely are doable, and they definitely are satisfying.  However, you should definitely start with the regular crosswords.  Diagramless puzzles are definitely not for crossword tyros.

Although I will not attempt to cover the whole subject of how to play diagramless crossword puzzles, I will give you a few big tips:

  • The grid's diagonal symmetry is crucial, because if you know there's a black (or white) in the fifth cell down and the seventh cell right, then you also know there'll be a black (or white) in the fifth cell up and the seventh cell left.
  • The exact numbering of the clues, which you never pay much attention to in regular crosswords, can help in figuring out where one answer ends.  For example, if the second Across clue is numbered 6-Across, you can be sure the answer to 1-Across is five letters long.  That doesn't tell you where 1-Across starts, nor does it tell you where 6-Across starts, but it does tell you something.
  • Once you have established that a particular cell is a black and that the cell to the right of or below it is a white, you know that that white is the beginning of a new answer, which also means it gets a tiny clue number in the upper left corner.  Diagramlesses require a fine-point pencil and the frequent use of an eraser.
  • No answer is less than three characters long, which means if the space for a potential answer is one or two characters long, that space should be marked black (and, of course, so should the diagonally symmetrical space).
  • Every white cell must be used in an Across answer and a Down answer, which can help you know which cells cannot or may not be black.

Diagramless crosswords combine all the elements of regular crosswords with the additional mental exertion of figuring out the blank grid.  As I say, they are satisfying to play, especially when you discover that you really can finish one.  I recommend them to anyone who has the time.

I also recommend this next Web page on the subject.


You probably got to these two pages about diagramless crossword puzzles from here or here or here.

In any case, there's a Back button at the bottom.

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