ESL crosswords and how to make them

ESL crosswordsCrosswords are really great for introducing a new theme or grammar point, you can give them out as a warmer while you’re waiting for all the class to arrive, or they make a  handy homework or vocabulary review task.

The best tool

Last time I searched Google for crossword puzzle maker it returned 1,720,000 results and having worked my way through a good chunk of those, let me tell you that finding the right tool is not as easy as you might think. Most of the options I tried were buggy, ineffective or guilty of slapping giant ads onto the page – which just looks ugly and unprofessional.

Finally, I settled on PuzzleFast because it is relatively easy to use and produces a reasonably put together puzzle.

How to make an ESL crossword with PuzzleFast

  •  select the radio button Crossword
  • in the text box make a colon separated column of words followed by their clues. For example:

ate:past form of eat
dug:past form of dig
hat:something you put on your head

  • give the crossword a title, and press the make my puzzle button

You will now be taken to a  printable, ad-free page containing your nicely positioned English crossword. If you’re not satisfied with the result, hit the remake button and the puzzle will be regenerated.


Sometimes the site doesn’t manage to generate a puzzle that uses all the clues, try and include at least one longish word among the answers, this will increase the quality of the final puzzle.

Like most of the free options, it’s not possible to download the puzzle as a PDF. However, if you download and install the free PDF reader and creator Nitro Reader, which is a much nicer and faster PDF reader than Adobe Reader, then you can easily save the puzzle (and all other web content!) as a PDF. Just follow this procedure:

  • click the printer icon above the puzzle
  • select the Change Printer button on the print options menu.
  • select Nitro PDF Creator
  • the PDF will be generated and you will be prompted to save it.

Note: not every student will be familiar with crossword puzzles, so make sure to explain it first as well as the meaning of down and across.

Printable ESL crosswords

Here are some sample crosswords I created using PuzzleMaker.

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