There's a tutorial on the subject of diagramless puzzles you should go to.
Go there and read it, dismiss any popup ad windows, delete any
cookies it sets on your computer, then come back here. Or just keep reading.
There's good advice
there, but you should know there's also some bad advice, some misleading information that, if you
believe it, will make your job of getting started playing diagramless crosswords significantly harder.
Here are the statements that are misleading and why.
||Why it's misleading
|"First, determine the starting square (the square in which 1-Across begins). To determine the length of the answer to 1-Across, simply look at the number of the second Across clue, and subtract 1 from it."
|| Knowing the length of the first answer does not tell you where the starting square is. All you can know for
sure about the starting square is that it will be somewhere in the top row and, if it's five characters long in a 17 X 17 grid, that it will be
located anywhere from the first column to the thirteenth.
|"Put the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 into the upper left corners of the first four answer squares in the grid."
If the answer is five letters long then you will put the clue numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 into the upper left corners of
the first five answer squares in the grid.
Also, I remind you, it is not true they'd always be the five leftmost cells in the grid.
|"Remember to place a black square at the beginning and end of each answer as you enter them (unless the entry starts or finishes at the outer edge of the grid)."
|| The author meant to say, "as you enter it," not "them," i.e., as you enter each answer, not as
you turn squares black.
Also, in case you're wondering, there's no crossword jargon being used here: "Outer edge of the grid" is indeed redundant.
Further, although it's not clear from the original context, "edge" as used here does also refer to the top and bottom rows.
|"Don't forget to put black squares at either end of 6-Across."
|| As I explain elsewhere, there's no earthly reason to use "either" wrong,
especially where "each" is right. Taken as written here, this directive says to choose one end or the other of 6-Across and add at least two black squares thereto, which is not
at all good advice.
This sentence should read something like, "Don't forget to put a black square at each end of 6-Across," which, at the cost of a moment of the
writer's thought, eliminates both uncertainties.
|"American crosswords have mirror symmetry, which is to say that the pattern of black and white squares in the puzzle look
[sic] the same if the grid is turned upside down."
|| This statement is not merely misleading, it is outright wrong, which makes a huge difference if you're a novice diagramless
solver and you believe it. Mirror symmetry does
not mean the pattern looks the same upside-down, it means it looks the same when held up to a mirror. Proper American crosswords exhibit diagonal symmetry, which does indeed mean it's the same grid when rotated 180 degrees.
few American crosswords are mirrorly symmetrical (you'll find three in a row starting here), but they're
rare. To repeat, despite what is said at left, do not
expect that any "American crosswords have mirror symmetry."
Lesson: Don't believe everything you read.