I’ve also loved puzzles and games my whole life. I’ve been solving the NYTimes crossword puzzle daily since I was a teenager. I had my first submission printed just after college. And I realized later in life, when I was 30 years old, that I could combine the worlds of magic and
puzzles, as I reasoned all magic tricks were puzzles! As far as being a crossword constructor (a cruciverbalist) is concerned, anyone can mail them in to the NYTimes, it’s an open submission process. They get reviewed by the guru of all puzzles, Mr. Will Shortz, and his assistant editors. And I had so many puzzles rejected before I finally figured it out - and I STILL get them rejected, because I’m always trying to push the envelope!
As far as tips? For Solvers, start with a Monday - anyone can do a Monday NYTimes crossword. Saturday’s crosswords are the most difficult - it can still take me a full day to get through a Saturday NYTimes crossword. And if you want to start making crosswords, there are a few great blogs (Diary of a Crossword Fiend, Rex Parker does the NYT Crossword) that break down how a puzzle comes together. But honestly it’s trial and error — don’t be afraid to mail in your crossword and get feedback from the editing team.