As part of constructing crossword puzzles, I have been thinking a lot about heavily themed puzzles — more than just a few long theme entries, actually trying to theme the entire puzzle. It’s not an easy feat and to make the puzzle work I always end up with a few words with pretty tenuous links to the theme. But I have found that it’s not impossible and if you pick the right subject, the cluing takes on its own level of trivia hunting that can be quite enjoyable.
One of the things I quickly realized is that to build these kinds of puzzles I would need highly specialized word lists. After trying to make do with Excel’s text parsing and a few other hacky tools, I ended up writing and then recently open sourcing word list building software I am calling XWordList.
Check it out and if you are interested, please download, install and use it! I am looking for feedback and would appreciate any comments, bug reports and requests. It’s been a fun and rewarding project. I also built a companion help site with examples, recipes for common patterns and a reference to all of the options.
As a teaser to the types of puzzles I have started to build, please enjoy a Tom Petty mini puzzle: 5x5 with no blocks based mostly on his lyrics but with a few extras to glue everything together.