Well-versed in the art of combing through submissions, Los Angeles Times Crossword Editor Rich Norris and assistant Patti Varol provided some crucial do’s and don’ts for submitting your puzzles:
“DO spend time solving and studying the puzzles of your target venue. Difficulty levels, theme types, clue styles, and puzzle sizes all vary from publication to publication and from editor to editor. Only by solving the puzzles can you get to know what an editor is looking for. Happily, the more puzzles you solve, the better a constructor you will be.
“DO follow the publication specifications of your target venue. Some editors do not accept email submissions, some do not accept snail mail submissions. Some editors list words or clues they do not allow. If a publisher or editor has taken the time to put together publication specs, you should follow them. Cruciverb has the specs for all of the major venues; if a venue you are considering is missing from this list, send a polite query email/letter to the editor.
“In other words, DO NOT send messages like ‘I just read in your publication specs that you don’t review theme queries, but would you mind reviewing this theme before I make the grid?’
“DO keep your cover letter short and sweet: Greet the editor, list your theme entries/theme clues, thank the editor for his or her time, sign your name. If there are weak entries in your grid, the editor will find them – you don’t need to point them out. If you find yourself writing paragraphs explaining or justifying a clue or a theme entry, chances are that entry or clue can’t be justified. If your submission has been rejected elsewhere, best to keep that to yourself.
“In other words, DO NOT let your cover letter talk the editor out of even reviewing your puzzle. If you begin your message with, ‘You’ve rejected my last 12 puzzles, so I’m hoping 13 will be my lucky number!’, you’re reminding the editor that your work hasn’t been to his or her taste. Let every puzzle speak for itself.
“DO trust the editor. If your puzzle is rejected, DO NOT write back to argue. If the editor has made a factual error, it’s fine to politely and respectfully reply and point it out, with documentation. Be respectful, and be prepared to hear that there were other reasons the puzzle fell short.”
Constructor Robin Stears also advises maintaining submission records if you’re planning to construct on a regular basis: “After I’ve sent the puzzle, I enter the particulars into my database -— title, size, publisher, date sent, and a list of the theme entries. This ensures that I don’t send the same puzzle to different publishers, and allows me to track which puzzles I’ve sold.”