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What is A crossword?
A crossword is a word puzzle that normally takes the form of a square or a rectangular grid of white and black shaded squares. The goal is to fill the white squares with letters, forming words or phrases, by solving clues which lead to the answers. In languages that are written left-to-right, the answer words and phrases are placed in the grid from left to right and from top to bottom. The shaded squares are used to separate the words or phrases.
The horizontal and vertical lines of white cells into which answers are written are commonly called entries or answers. The clues are usually called just that, or sometimes definitions. White cells are sometimes called lights, and the shaded cells are sometimes called darks, blanks, blocks, or just simply black squares or shaded squares.
Squares in which answers begin are usually numbered. The clues are then referred to by these numbers and a direction, for example, “4-Across” or “20-Down”. At the end of the clue the total number of letters is sometimes given, depending on the style of puzzle and country of publication. Some crosswords will also indicate the number of words in a given answer, should there be more than one.
A white cell that is part of two entries (both Across and Down) is called checked, keyed or crossed. A white cell that is part of only one entry is called unchecked, unkeyed or uncrossed.
The creating of crosswords is called cruciverbalism among its practitioners, who are referred to as cruciverbalists, from the Latin for cross and word. Although the terms have existed since the mid-1970s, non-cruciverbalists rarely use them, calling crossword creators constructors or (especially outside the United States) setters or compilers.
Puzzles are often one of several standard sizes. For example, many weekday puzzles (such as the American New York Times crossword puzzle) are 15×15 squares, while weekend puzzles may be 21×21, 23×23, or 25×25. The New York Times puzzles also set a common pattern for American crosswords by increasing in difficulty throughout the week: the Monday puzzles are the easiest and the puzzles get harder until Saturday. The larger Sunday puzzle is approximately the same level of difficulty as a weekday-size Thursday puzzle. This has led U.S. solvers to use the day of the week as a shorthand when describing how hard a puzzle is: i.e., an easy puzzle may be referred to as a Monday or Tuesday, a medium-difficulty puzzle as a Wednesday and a truly difficult puzzle as a Saturday. One of the smallest crosswords in general distribution is a 4×4 crossword compiled daily by John Wilmes, distributed online by USA Today as “QuickCross” and by Universal Uclick as “PlayFour.”