Also Known As:

Back to Front, Backtrack, Backwords, Black-Out

This long-running variant of the crossword has been in 'Puzzler' since 1973.

A completed crossword is presented to the solver, but with extra letters in the grid where the black squares should be. The solver must determine the grid pattern by marrying possible answers in the grid with the clues. The bogus letters are then blacked out to form the answer grid, which is symmetrical. The solver may be invited to add clue numbers to the grid and clues, to complete the backwards crossword, but to all intents and purposes, the puzzle is solved once the grid pattern has been established.

To avoid making the puzzle too easy, the clues are neither numbered, nor in the correct order, though they are listed as Across or Down. In some instances, the number of letters to be blacked out is specified.

The extra letters in the grid are used to produce plausible answers that will be eliminated as the puzzle is solved. Backwards crosswords tend to avoid long words and phrases, as they give away the grid pattern too easily, and hamper the setter in adding red herring answers.

It is possible to produce these puzzles without clues. In this case, the solver will be told the style of symmetry in the completed grid, and the number of letter squares to black in. Red herring words in the grid will be eliminated on the grounds of having no genuine word as a symmetrical counterpart in the grid.

Another variant of this puzzle requires solvers to shade cells in lightly, as the blacked-out cells will spell out a popular phrase. This version is easier to solve because the grid does not contain misleading answers.


Using the jumbled-up clues as an aid, black out any unwanted letters in the grid to form a symmetrical crossword puzzle.

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