What is a meta puzzle / contest crossword ?

Meta puzzles (also sometimes called contest puzzles) are crossword puzzles with an extra challenge. First, the grid is filled out like any other crossword puzzle. Afterwards, there is a prompt asking the solver for the solution to the meta. The prompt might ask for a 5-letter word, or for a word in a specific category, or anything else! To figure out the solution the solver needs to look for hints in the puzzle's clues, entries, grid layout, title, or anywhere else a devious constructor might have hidden them.


Perhaps the easiest way to understand how a meta works is to solve one! Here is mini (4x4) meta - open it and give it a solve!
Once you solve the grid, you'll be prompted to submit your answer for the meta. You can see right away from the prompt that the solution is a 4 letter word. Look around and see if you notice anything interesting about the puzzle as you try to solve the meta:
  • Check the title
  • Check the grid for anything unusual
  • Check the clues for anything unusual
A good meta has a satisfying "click" when you come to the right answer, so hopefully you'll know it when you see it! Hover over the below boxes for some hints if you're stuck:
Hint #1: The across clues each have a second clue in parentheses
Hint #2: There are four across clues and the answer is looking for a four letter word
Hint #3: How can you modify each across entry to get it to match the parenthetical clue instead?
Hopefully you manage to get the solution using the hints above. Once you do, submit your answer and you'll see if you were correct or not! If you are correct you'll show up on the puzzle's leaderboard! The comments are also revealed after submitting - you can view the explanation for the solution there.
Every meta puzzle has a different "mechanism", so take your time and try to get inside the constructor's head. Double check every aspect of the puzzle for anything unusual - if it's unusual it's probably there for a reason! The best way to get better at solving metas is to keep practicing!

Where can I find more metas?

Folks post metas to Crosshare pretty frequently - you can use the meta tag to view a list of all new meta puzzles as they come in!

How can I create my own meta puzzle?

Crosshare is the easiest way to create and share meta puzzles. When you're uploading or constructing a new puzzle keep your eye out for the checkbox that says "This is a meta / contest puzzle". Once you check that some additional options will appear so you can specify the correct solution(s), specify whether or not your puzzle has a prize, etc. In addition to the leaderboard, Crosshare gives you detailed statistics about meta submissions.

This article is part of a series of posts designed to teach visitors about crosswords in general as well as some Crosshare specific features. If you have any questions or suggestions for this or other articles please contact us via email or discord.

We're seeking volunteers to help expand and edit this knowledgebase so it becomes more useful for constructors and solvers. If you're interested please reach out!