This post is not a puzzle. There is nothing puzzly hidden inside it or the self-answer, posted at the same time.
What exactly is an Around the Bend crossword, and how do I make one?
Around the Bend is a variety crossword type where words go, you guessed it, around a bend. Here's an example grid:
The arrows are to indicate that words are read right-to-left in one row and then finished left-to-right in the row below it. The usual rules I give:
Example: If #1 was "TRAPS"*, then #2 must start with "SP" and #20 must end with "ART". #1 would be entered as TRA in the #1 row and SP in the #2 row, so if you read #1 left-to-right and then #2 right-to-left it spells "TRAPS"
* specific word changed to fit the grid shape
There are also some soft rules to consider when making your own crossword (in order of importance):
1. Set up a working grid
This grid can be digital (Excel, Google Sheets) or handmade (graph paper). Just make sure that there is enough space to grid the entire crossword. Note that hand-writing the grid will require a good eraser.
2. Pick a first word
There are two options here
a) Pick a word with a reversible prefix or suffix.
If this crossword will be built "downwards" (new words have prefixes which reverse to the previous word's suffix), a good word would be GNOME, split GN/OME. NG is a very common suffix, so connecting the two ends to finish off the crossword will be easier. EMO would then be the next word's prefix. A starter word for building "upwards" could be BARTER, split BAR/TER, with RET being a common prefix.
b) Pick a thematic or special word
This option is when a certain word absolutely must be in the crossword. It's hard to force words with difficult suffixes/prefixes in later. An example word to force is LOGICAL. This is a tricky word to split, but LOG/ICAL may be the best - but even those, reversed, don't provide many options. Here the best option would be to build off both ends, aiming for more common affixes, until at least one end has a nice reversible row.
3. Expand the grid by building off an end
The internet is quite helpful here. My two favorite tools are onelook (more words) and The Free Dictionary (less "words" that wouldn't work in a crossword), but any site that allows searching for a words with a certain prefix or suffix will work.
So, an example. For LOG/ICAL, search for words which end with GOL. MONGOL looks good, so enter MON into the grid above LOG. Or, search for words which start with LACI. To use LACING, enter GN into the row below LACI. And repeat.
Some pointers that may be helpful:
4. Connect the ends
This is essentially extending, but way more difficult. I recommend starting closing considerations when there are ~2 words left. Have at least one window open for each end (prefix and suffix) which must be extended, and cross-reference until some filler words work. These connecting words will likely not be as nice as the rest, but that's fine. Just joining the ends is an achievement!
5. Clean up
Now to prepare the crossword for solvers. I usually "rotate" the grid (change the starting word) to make the shape more aesthetically pleasing. Adding a row of #1 again at the bottom is optional but does help the solver. Creating a final grid picture, such as the one shown above, can be easily done online. My method is below
You'll also need to clue each word, but that's standard for making crosswords so I won't go over it here.