WORD SEARCH FOR READERS/AUTHORS
I made a word search puzzle for anyone who appreciates books.
Later, I will also show you how I made the puzzle.
First, here is the puzzle.
Here is the word list:
HOW TO MAKE A WORD SEARCH PUZZLE
I will show you how to make a word search puzzle in Microsoft Word or Excel.
I will focus specifically on Word for Windows, though Excel is very similar.
There are a few differences.
- Word lets you enter the width of the columns and the height of the rows in inches so that you know they are exactly the same. The numerical measures for these values in Excel can be confusing, and unless you research what they mean you need to eyeball it. But you can still get them close enough that it doesn’t matter.
- Word has a few formatting issues (like line spacing and cell margins) that can be problematic for the table, but I’ll show you how to deal with them.
- If you’re trying to make a book, Excel can cause trouble trying to get predictable and consistent page margins, page headers, etc. on the final printed product. But a Word file with dozens of tables becomes a complex file prone to being slow to work with and becoming corrupt. For a book, if you can convert the tables individually into high-quality JPEGS (300 DPI) and insert these into Word (after researching the tricks to avoid having the pictures compressed), the file will be much more manageable. You can also separate the book into several smaller files and combine them together into a single PDF if you have access to Adobe Acrobat DC (not to be confused with the free Adobe Reader). Beware that many Word to PDF converters don’t have this capability, so find out what you have access to before working with a bunch of small files.
The first thing I did was come up with a list of related words. I made a list of words that relate to books, like “Kindle” and “poem.”
Next, I inserted a table in Microsoft Word using Insert > Table > Insert Table. My table has 18 rows and 18 columns, but you should pick the size that suits your table. If you need a smaller or larger table, you can easily insert or delete rows/columns as needed.
The default table has unequal column width and row height, so I adjusted this. I highlighted the entire table (but not beyond the table) and clicked the Layout tab on the top of the screen. I changed the Height and Width of all of my rows and columns to 0.25″. Depending on your font size, font style, and what suits your eye, you may need different values.
With the entire table highlighted, I also changed the font style to Courier New and the font size to 12 points on the Home ribbon. You can use a different font style or size. What I like about Courier New for a word search is that all of the letters are the same width. However, the font is a little light, so it’s not perfect. I suggest playing around with the font options, and print out a sample on paper before you commit.
There are two things you need to do in order to have good spacing and centering:
- With the whole table highlighted (but not beyond the table), on the Layout tab select the center/middle alignment on the tic-tac-toe grid of icons in the Alignment group. This centers every cell horizontally and vertically, but it won’t be perfect unless you also complete the next step.
- With the entire table highlighted, click the little arrow-like icon on the bottom right corner of the Paragraph group on the Home ribbon. This opens up the paragraph properties box. Set the line spacing to Single, and the Spacing Before and After to zero. Special should be set to None and the Indentation settings should be zero.
I put the CAPS lock on my keyboard since I prefer a word search with uppercase letters.
I started typing in words horizontally, vertically, and diagonally, forward and backward. I challenged myself to see how many words relating to books I could squeeze into the puzzle, and I managed to use words beginning with every letter of the alphabet from A thru W. It’s not necessarily the way to go; I just had fun doing it.
At this stage, my puzzle looked like this:
Next I added letters to the blank cells. I studied my word list, trying to create letter sequences that might make the word search slightly more challenging, and add a few letters that hadn’t been used much (like X). If you’re looking for BOOK and you see BOOI, for example, your eye and mind can get fixated on the wrong sequence and not find the right one as quickly. The more experience you have solving word searches, the more you learn about the kinds of things that affect you while solving the puzzle. But remember that other people may think differently.
Now I highlighted the entire table, went to the Design tab, clicked the little arrow beneath Borders, and selected No Border.
Then I changed the pen thickness to 1 pt (the default was 1/2 pt). If you plan to publish a book, Amazon KDP (for example) recommends a minimum of 1 pt for the thickness of line drawings.
Next, highlight the entire table, go back to Borders, and select Outside Borders. Your puzzle should look like this:
I zoomed in as far as I could and still see the whole table and used the Snapshot tool to take a picture of the table. (Pro tip: Make sure your cursor is below or above the table so that the cursor doesn’t show up in the picture of your table.) If making a book, you could change this to 300 DPI using image software like Photoshop. Beware that increasing the DPI isn’t magic: If it has to invent pixels, the picture may look blurry or pixilated. My computer takes 192 DPI snapshots, whereas some are much lower (72 or 96 DPI). I also have a very large monitor, so when I zoom in, I have a very large picture on my screen. Depending on your computer, you might get more or fewer pixels.
If your picture is larger in inches than you need, when you increase the DPI, if you also decrease the dimensions in inches, you might already have enough pixels that you don’t get a blurry or pixilated image. If you plan to make a book, you need to test this out, especially print out a page on a deskjet printer as a sample.
Since I just did this for my blog, not a book, I didn’t bother so much with this one.
Next I inserted the picture of the table into a Word file and added my word list to it, like the picture below. There is no particular reason that I put words on both sides of the table. I would recommend reading a few word search puzzle books and getting ideas for what formatting appeals to you.
Now there is the issue of making an answer key.
There are a few ways to go about this. You could just highlight the letters in the table and change the colors of those cells (for example, to a shading of 25% gray using the Design ribbon).
If you try to use Word’s drawing tools to create rounded rectangles, beware that some letters may actually move around and row heights or column widths may change slightly.
Well, there is a way around that. Insert the picture of the table into a new file in JPEG format (wrapped In Line With Text, on its own “paragraph”). Then you can make rounded rectangles and lay them over the picture without having to worry about the format of the table changing.
I created rounded rectangles (using Insert > Shapes) with a width of 0.18″. If you use a different font style or size, you may need a different width. For the diagonals, I clicked the little arrow-like icon beside Size on the Format ribbon (when the rounded rectangle was selected) and changed the rotation angle to 45 or 315 degrees.
I used a lot of copy/paste to make other rounded rectangles, trying to be consistent with alignment and positioning.
Here is the solution to my word search puzzle:
It would be very easy to make mistakes trying to make a word search puzzle book.
Beta readers would be great for creating a puzzle book, to help you catch important little details. They could also help you create buzz for your book.
There may or may not be demand for such a puzzle book, but if you really love puzzles, you would surely enjoy making the puzzles and sharing them with others.
Write Happy, Be Happy
Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides
To think, I used to make them on graph paper…. 🙂
Man, this looks like a lot of work!
I love making puzzles too since I teach creative writing and find it a useful tool. However, there are some free & easy puzzle generators online that are available to download and print. That’s what I use.
I too realize there isn’t much of a market for puzzles but would love if you could share any with me if you find any.
That would be a quick and convenient way to make a puzzle. 🙂
My Friend has made some Word Search Puzzles, and she’d like to get them Published. Would you tell me how she could do this please? THANKS
Either approach publishers who accept submissions with a query letter and SASE (this requires a little research, plus most publishers are looking for novels, not puzzles; and those which publish puzzles probably make their own), or self-publish them (for example, using Amazon KDP).