Diagramless Crossword

A diagramless crossword, sometimes just called a diagramless, are a variation on a crossword puzzle in which clues are given, but without the grid. Traditionally, these puzzles are not overly common in newspapers, but still find a home in collections and, most importantly, puzzle hunts.

Background[edit | edit source]

Diagramless crosswords, essentially just being a crossword missing the guidelines, had a very simple origin. In 1924, Margaret Petherbridge (soon-to-be Farrar) went to lunch with some colleagues to work on puzzles for their first book publication. As they worked, they discovered that they had left one of the grids back at the office, but brought the clues with them. F. Gregory Hartswick, one of the colleagues, decided to avoid going back for it, and instead recreated the grid based on the clues, solving it in the process. As a result, the group had created the first diagramless crossword.

Since then, diagramlesses have shown up most notably in Times magazine, as it one of the publication's featured puzzle types.

Puzzle Application[edit | edit source]

While many suppose that the construction of a diagramless simply involves writing a crossword and then deleting the grid, the truth is that much more consideration must be taken to avoid overly frustrated solvers.

A California-shaped diagramless, designed by Stan Kurzban

Diagramless crosswords, despite their primary gimmick being the lack of a grid, don't let solvers go in entirely blind about the grid. Most diagramlesses will present either a blank grid for the solver to fill out (implying dimensions and sometimes even a start point for the first across entry), or give smaller clues about the grid, such as specific dimensions and whether or not the grid has rotational symmetry. The latter of those two is especially important, as diagramless crosswords are not constrained by the usual rules of crossword construction, in that they aren't required to have rotational symmetry at all. In fact, many authors tend to use this method to construct crosswords that are in the shape of something specific, like an animal.

With regard to the clues in a diagramless, they often carry a similar difficulty to a regular crossword of its size, maybe slightly easier to balance out the difficulty of reconstruction. However, one key difference is that diagramlesses often contain theme entries that not only share a common bond, but hint towards the true shape of the grid (such as a series of Californian cities for one shaped like the state itself).

Strategy[edit | edit source]

Diagramless crosswords can be difficult to pin down, especially those that have funky shapes.

To do TO DO

Notable Examples[edit | edit source]

  • The Island of the Cyclopes (Are We There Yet?) (web) - A difficult diagramless crossword simply by virtue of being written by Mark Halpin. On top of that, this puzzle also has two twists: all instances of the letter I need to be removed from entries before entry, and, due to the fill being in the shape of an eye, the first entry starts in the middle of the first row.
  • Diagramless Crossmusic (MITMH 2013) (web) - Rather than having clues, this diagramless was made up of short clips of two songs overlapping, one for each cell in the puzzle. This allowed solvers to create two fills (one going horizontally and one going vertically) of the song titles, based on overlaps and the order the clips needed to be placed to play a continuous piece of music.
  • World's Longest Diagramless (MITMH 2016) (web) - Themed after the Animaniacs short 'Yakko Warner Sings All Of The Words In The English Language'. As a result, the diagramless is, in fact, extremely long. However, aside from a short section at the start and a short section at the end, all of the clues given are for words in alphabetical order. So, while constructing the diagramless may theoretically be possible, it's not necessary for solving the puzzle.

See Also[edit | edit source]