Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 4 NO. 11 / JUNE 1990


Now Making a Crossword Puzzle is
Easier than Solving One


If you've ever marveled at those mental whizzes who actually finish the New York Times crossword puzzle -  in PEN -  then pause for a moment and consider how tough it must be to design them. But help is here. Using Crossword Creator, you'll whip up those brain teasers with ease.
Crossword Creator
Crossword-puzzle generator
512K, high or medium rez

When Arthur Wynne published the first modern crossword puzzle in the New York World on December 13, 1913, little did he know that it would quickly become a fad in the United States and soon spread to other countries as well. By the early 1920s, newly formed crossword clubs were sponsoring contests and holding championships, which increased the crossword puzzle's popularity.

Solving crosswords has long since been described as an "enjoyable exercise in frustration" for millions of puzzle addicts worldwide. Creating a puzzle, however, tends to redefine the term on a nightmarish scale, calling for a tedious pencil-and-paper drill with dubious results, at best, This is why I developed Crossword Creator, a full-featured crossword generator that helps you easily create and print your own crossword puzzles. The program includes clue editing and an optional puzzle solution.

Getting Started
To run Crossword Creator, double-click on the archive file CROSSWRD.PRG and choose Extract when the dialog box appears. Select a destination disk and the files will be un-ARCed directly onto that disk. To start the program, double-click on either CWC_MONO.PRG or CWC_COLR.PRG, depending on the type of monitor you have, After a few moments, the title screen will appear and Crossword Creator is ready to use.

Most of the Crossword Creator screen is taken up by the grid where the interlocking words that make up your puzzle will be displayed. Upon loading, the program defaults to the maximum allowable size grid for your particular monitor (24 across x 17 down for color; 30 across x 20 down for monochrome).

Along the left-hand side and bottom of the screen are several option buttons, some of which appear faded to indicate that they are not yet usable. For example, when there is no puzzle in memory, the only options available are CREATE, LOAD and QUIT. All options may he selected by pointing and clicking with the left mouse button or by pressing the key corresponding to the highlighted letter of the desired option.

The functions of the main screen's option buttons are described in the sidebar.

How to Create a Puzzle from a Word List
You'll find the Word List method to he the fastest and easiest way to create a puzzle in Crossword Creator. Word lists may be created via the CREATE PUZZLE function, or you may use any word processor capable of saving a file in ASCII. If you use a word processor, put only one word on a line and end each line with a carriage return. Crossword Creator accepts a maximum of 99 words of length 15 letters or less, alphabet characters only. Save the list to disk as an ASCII text file using a filename extension .WRD.

For maximum speed, Crossword Creator will not display the puzzle on screen until It has exhausted the word list, Very large word lists may take a few minutes, so be patient and wait for the bell that sounds when the puzzle has been completed. You may halt the process at any time by pressing [Undo]. Once the puzzle has been completed, you will be advised of what percentage of words from the original word list were successfully added to the puzzle. If you wish, you then may ask Crossword Creator to try the same list again. The program will randomize the words in an attempt to fit a greater proportion.

Hints and Tips
The MAKE TEMPLATE option lets you create specific crossword puzzle patterns. You may add or delete blacked-out squares at any time, but remember that templates usually restrict the number of words that can be successfully added, Also, when the PRINT PUZZLE option is selected, all unused rows and columns in your puzzle will he erased to make it more compact. You can defeat this compaction by forming a border of blacked-out squares around the perimeter of your puzzle.

Many crossword puzzles are designed so that the upper left-hand corner contains an across word and a down word, While Crossword Creator optimizes its search pattern to fit an entered word as quickly as possible, this may not result in the specific word placement that you want. To remedy this, use the MANUAL mode of the ADD WORD function to place an across word and down word at the corner(s) as desired. Then return to AUTO mode to continue entering words the easy way.

If you don't care for the positioning of a word done in the AUTO mode, use the DELETE WORD function to remove it, then add it back in at the preferred location using the MANUAL mode, You will be alerted if a manually positioned word causes a conflict with an existing word, Such conflicts usually arise from the accidental formation of nonsense words when you place a new word adjacent to an existing one. You may KEEP or DELETE the word just added hut if you keep it, be sure to correct any nonsense words by manually adding new words over them.

Although you won't have to worry about conflicts in the AUTO mode, judicious use of the MANUAL mode will certainly make your puzzles more challenging and professional in their appearance.

John L. Hutchinson is a major in the US. Army and is currently assigned to the Australian Army War Game Centre in Sydney. He is the author of Naval Battle (START Special Issue Number Four) and a number of GFA BASIC tutorials that appeared in previous issues of START.
Crossword Creator Sample Puzzle
1. Nickname of Bugs! author
6. Uncompress; pre-playing preparation
8. #1 Guide to Atari ST
10. Pazhitnov's big hit
14. Programs Editor

15. June's theme

18. The contents of Dialog Box
19. See 20 across
20. Atari's new president
21. Mutant snake's name
22. Crossword Creator's creator
2. What Psygnosis Illustrators studied
3. Wordle's _____ cube
4. Pazhitnov's home
5. Editor's Initials
7. Junior Editor
8. Location of Atari headquarters
9. What Edwin did to the pellets
11. Review category; ___ playing games
12. Psygnosis' native land
13. Sam or Jack
16. Computer manufacturer
17. Machines used by START staff
19. Computer which the ST can emulate

Solution on page 56


Button key
QUIT Q or Undo
? ? or Help

Creates a new puzzle or word list. A dialog box appears giving you three choices: PUZZLE, WRD LIST and CANCEL.

Click on WRD LIST to create a word list. Words must be entered one at a time, Each word may contain up to 15 characters and must consist of letters only - no numerals or punctuation. Press [Return] when you've finished your list, then save it by selecting a filename with the extension .WRD.

When you choose PUZZLE, a dialog box asks you to enter your puzzle's parameters. These parameters include the number of letters across and down, and the total number of words (up to 99). Click on the arrows beside the numbers to increase or decrease them.

The puzzle-parameters dialog box also asks you to choose your WORD ENTRY METHOD. Choose KEYBOARD to enter words from the keyboard, one at a time. Choose WORD LIST to load a previously prepared list of words,

Below that, you're asked to choose your preferred WORD POSITIONING METHOD, Choose AUTOMATIC to let the program decide where to place each word. Click on MANUAL to position each word yourself.

Finally, you must decide whether or not you want Crossword Creator to automatically attempt to fit words from the unused list.
Saves your masterpiece to disk. All puzzle data files must have the filename extension .PUZ. Existing puzzles with the same filename will be renamed .BAK. In addition, a word-list file of the same filename but with a .WRD extension will automatically be saved.
Lets you load a previously saved puzzle file. Be sure to save any puzzle currently in memory, as loading another puzzle will replace it.

At the main menu, click on CREATE PUZZLE to call
up this dialog box. Here you may set your desired
puzzle parameters.

A dialog box will appear asking you to choose either AUTO or MANUAL. AUTO is the default; the program fits each word in the puzzle automatically. The first word will he positioned as close to the center of the puzzle as possible. Subsequent words will he interconnected with existing words or placed on the unused words list for later use. To enter words manually, click on MANUAL. At the ENTER NEW WORD prompt, enter any word of up to 15 characters and press [Return] The word will appear in boldface the upper left hand corner of the puzzle. Click on the right mouse button to switch it from across to down, then drag your word to the desired location in the puzzle. Press the left mouse button to paste the word. You may then continue to enter new words to the maximum puzzle limit of 99. Note that you cannot connect to an existing word unless the letters of both words match up exactly. Crossword Creator will also alert you if you try to place the word in a position where it creates a conflict with existing words.

To exit to the main menu, press [Return] at the ENTER NEW WORD prompt.
This option will change the mouse cursor to a skull and crossbones and display a list of any unused words over the option buttons. Position this "deadly" cursor over the first letter of any word in the puzzle or the unused-words list and click the left mouse button to delete that word.

To cancel the delete operation, click the right mouse button or press any key. Use this option with care
because once a word has been deleted, it's gone for good!
The mouse cursor changes to a crosshair with which you can "paint" a pattern of black squares on the puzzle grid. No words will be positioned on black squares. Click the left mouse button to paint or erase each square, and the right button to exit this function.

MAKE TEMPLATE gives you a choice of symmetry: NONE, 2-WAY and 4-WAY. NONE paints squares one at a time. 2-WAY paints a square and its diagonal counterpart. 4-WAY paints a square and its counterparts in the other three corners.
Lets you to enter or edit text clues for each word currently used in the puzzle. The "across" words are presented first, followed by the "down" words. Each clue is limited to a single line of up to 35 characters. When editing previously entered clues, simply press [Return] to accept a clue, or press [Delete] to erase a clue prior to typing in a new one.
Select this option to call up a sub-menu of print options.

Click on PUZZLE ONLY or press [P] to print an unsolved puzzle. Click on CLUES ONLY or press [C] to print its clues. Select SOLUTION ONLY or press [S] to print its solution, WORD LIST or [W] prints a list of used and unused puzzle words. Click on PRINT ALL or press [A] to print the puzzle, clues, solution and word list in that order. Select CANCEL or press [Undo] to return to the main menu. Prior to printing, Crossword Creator will ask you to enter an optional puzzle title in the message box, If you choose to enter one, it will he used as a heading above your printed puzzle and/or puzzle solution. Use [Delete] to edit the puzzle title as desired.

If printing a puzzle or solution, you'll also have the opportunity to save a DEGAS format picture file of the screen image. Use a filename extension of P12 for color puzzles and P13 for monochrome. (Editors who wish to incorporate crossword puzzles in their publications should find this particularly useful.)

You also have a choice of FINAL or DRAFT quality printouts. Click on FINAL to produce a finely detailed puzzle; DRAFT produces a rough version, Note that final-quality puzzle printing yields individual puzzle grids of 1/4-inch square. Also, while Crossword Creator has been designed for Epson-compatible 9-pin, dot-matrix printers, its draft mode will work with most other popular makes as well.
Returns you to the Desktop. Be sure to save your puzzle file before exiting the program.
Displays an alphabetized list of currently used words. When you create a puzzle, USED also tells you how many words have been successfully entered.
Crossword Creator provides plenty of online help. Click on the question mark to call up the help menu. Press any key or mouse button to return to the program.

The message box at the bottom center of the screen contains messages and questions to help yon create your puzzle.
Similar to USED, UNUSED displays an alphabetized list of unused words. It also keeps you advised of how many words have been entered that do not successfully fit in the puzzle