The creating of crosswords is called cruciverbalism among its practitioners, who are referred to as cruciverbalists. The terms derive 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
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 black cells are sometimes called darks, blanks, or blocks. 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.
Crossword grids such as those appearing in most North American newspapers and magazines feature solid areas of white squares. Every letter is checked, and usually each answer is required to contain at least three letters. In such puzzles black squares are traditionally limited to about one-sixth of the design. Crossword grids elsewhere, such as in Britain and Australia, have a lattice-like structure, with a higher percentage of black squares, leaving up to half the letters in an answer unchecked. For example, if the top row has an answer running all the way across, there will be no across answers in the second row.
Another tradition in puzzle design (in North America and
Typically, clues appear outside the grid, divided into an Across list and a Down list; the first cell of each entry contains a number referenced by the clue lists. For example, the answer to a clue labeled "17-Down" is entered with the first letter in the cell numbered "17", proceeding down from there. Numbers are almost never repeated; numbered cells are labeled consecutively, usually from left to right across each row, starting with the top row and proceeding downward. Some Japanese crosswords are numbered from top to bottom down each column, starting with the leftmost column and proceeding right. Some crosswords do not number the clues, but have their clues in small print inside grid cells which act as blanks, each clue with a little arrow indicating in which direction from its initial cell the answer is to be written. This kind of crossword originated in Scandinavia and has many different names: "Arrowwords", "Pointers" or "Tipwords" in English, Autodefinidos in Spanish, "Mots Fléchés" in French, etc, and are very popular, often being printed larger than conventional crosswords (to allow adequate space for printing the clues) and are much-used in competitions.