Two years ago, I worked on a blog post suggesting some of our favorite pencils for crossword puzzles, which still remains one of our top store requests! We recently broke out a copy of the Sunday Times, as well as a regular daily crossword to revisit the subject with our current (and much broader!) selection of pencils.
For newspaper and glossy magazine print, you need a pencil that's dark, but not too crumbly or smudgy. A firm pencil pretty much destroys newspaper - they indent the sheet so the marks are too hard to erase and are generally too light to show up very well. Not ideal. If a pencil is too soft, it will make a mess - especially on magazine paper. If you're using pencils for crosswords, you also need a really good eraser (because otherwise, you could just use a pen, right?) - it's got to be nice quality and sort of soft because hard rubber ones will easily tear newspaper.
Our original picks:
Craft Design Technology HB
Yellow School Pencil
At the time of the original post, we didn't have many of the lovely Japanese pencils that we have now, and we've since discovered some pencils that we prefer more than the original selection. Here's our updated picks -- which are available as a Crossword Puzzle Sampler Pack!
Swapped: Blackwing 602 for 2558 B: While the graphite in the 602 is a great hardness for both newspaper and magazine paper, we much prefer the soft plastic erasers on the end of the 2558 B (which is almost as dark as the 602) instead.
Swapped: Craft Design Technology for Camel HB: Okay, these are essentially the same pencil, and both are great general use pencils. We prefer the Camel HB here simply because they come in loose stock, so you can try just one before developing an addiction.
Swapped: Blackwing Pearl for General's Test Scoring: Similar to the 602, the Pearl is lovely and dark and great for magazine print. After testing however, we determined the Test Scoring pencil just has better point retention, which is needed when filling out small spaces.
Kept: Caran d'Ache Yellow School Pencil: I think this is one of the most underrated pencils in our collection! This is a great #2 pencil with a nice plastic eraser. It's got great point retention, too.
Kept: Palomino HB: This is one of our very favorites just because it's such a well-rounded pencil. It's got nice, smooth HB graphite that's just a little bit dark, it has really nice point retention and sharpens well, and it has a great eraser.
Introduced: Mitsubishi Office Use 9850: We like this one for similar reasons to the Palomino HB - it's just an all-around great pencil. It shows up nicely on newspaper and magazine print, erases well, and had a decent eraser.
Other accessories: Most pencils could use an eraser upgrade, and these hi-polymer caps are perfect for that! For on the go purposes, these pencil caps are also a great accessory to keep your points sharp and your bag graphite-free.
What are your thoughts on using pencils for crossword puzzles? Are you a purist who only uses pen (if so, you are much better at crosswords than me!)?
P.S. These pencils are also great for those newsprint puzzle books, too!