The Inkubator Crossword Guidelines
The Inkubator is aimed at novice to experienced solvers. Difficulty level will vary week to week and will be described as lightly challenging, somewhat challenging, or challenging.
The Inkubator has three missions.
- We aim to deliver to paying subscribers professionally constructed puzzles that meet the solver’s high expectations for entertainment and fair challenge.
- We want to help women new to the field develop their constructing skills.
- We provide a venue for women to exhibit and get paid for high-quality puzzles, especially (but not exclusively) puzzles that may not have a chance at mainstream publications due to feminist, political, or provocative content.
Standards for what makes a publishable, tight theme set are described in Patrick Berry’s “Guide to Constructing” (see the resource list). Constructors submitting finished puzzles to the Inkubator should be familiar with industry standards for well-structured themes and be able to explain the theme narratively. Rookie constructors are encouraged to submit theme ideas for evaluation and feedback prior to grid building.
Themes should be pitched in the body of the email with proposed clues and answers, list style. If you’re a novice who has already made a grid for your theme, do go ahead and attach it to your query, especially if it helps demonstrate a grid effect—just understand that it’s not uncommon for novice constructors to be asked to change, tighten or re-envision their theme in some way, and that advice and coaching about grid-work and cluing will usually come after a theme has been approved.
Themes may be traditional, feminist, queer, activist, edgy, confrontational, polite, conventional, elegant, silly or sexy, and themes involving rebus squares can be accommodated. Because the Inkubator publishes fewer than 30 puzzles a year, we are not running list/category themes honoring prominent women and achievements, as worthy as these themes are. All themes submitted should have an element of word-play or grid-play.
Puzzle dimensions are flexible and can be a non-traditional size or shape to accommodate a theme. Grids should adhere to industry-standard crossword symmetry and connectivity, avoiding unchecked squares and two-letter words, unless you’re breaking from the established form for a creative reason that you explain in your submission or query. Themeless submissions of 72 words or fewer (for a 15 X 15) are welcome.
Avoid crossing proper nouns, and if this is unavoidable, make sure at least one of the names is inferable/easy. If you have to look up what an abbreviation or word means, avoid using it in the fill. The editors may ask you to rework grids to eliminate these and other infelicities. (Using a curated, ranked word list really helps.)
Please take an editorial pass after clue-writing to tighten verbiage, check facts and ensure that clues are grammatically sound. Imagine solvers of different ages, orientations, and identities reading your clues.
Where do I submit?
Email queries and completed puzzles (.puz files preferred) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Constructors are paid $300 per puzzle upon publication. Please limit queries and submissions to one puzzle at a time (exception: rookies may query multiple theme ideas for advice and feedback in one email).