Advice - Crosswords

If you do not believe that crossword compilers do something close to journalism, try solving one of the more imaginative cryptic crosswords when the setter is in a topical mood...

Those who commission crosswords need to know that there is an enormous difference between the cryptic and the quick variety. Consider these two clues:

  • Refugee eels' fen - acid shuffle for useful tome (9,4,5)
  • Tells you what compiler's worth (9,4,5)

Setting clues of the first - cryptic - kind so that they are entertaining, challenging but (just) doable by the target audience takes much longer than simple definitions. Rates should be at least twice those for a quick crossword grid of the same size.

Compiling a themed crossword - for example one in which a significant proportion of the answers relate to a client's business or to a special occasion - takes considerably longer again.

Though software is now available to help create the grids and fill in the "lights" or solutions, it cannot help with clue-writing and is not much assistance with creative theming.

More advice and links...
* On negotiating for crosswords
* Uploaded 09/06/2323: if you have a printout, check the current version at
* Rates for the Job good, bad and ugly
* Join the NUJ to get individual advice & representation

Text © Mike Holderness & previous contributors; Moral rights asserted. The collection (database right) © National Union of Journalists. Comments to please. You may find the glossary helpful.

The National Union of Journalists must not, can not and would not wish to dictate rates or terms of engagement to members or to editors. The information presented here is for guidance and as an aid to equitable negotiation only.

Suggestions apply to contracts governed by UK law only. In any event, nothing here should be construed as legal advice.