14 June 2007

Crossword Express

It's been more than a week already and I still don't have the offer for the File & Print job. I guess I'll just have to wait for the bureaucrats to do their bureaucratic business.

So a few months ago, I had a renewed interest in doing crossword puzzles. Naturally, I wanted to make them myself. It's one thing to do them and it's quite another to make them. Years ago when I first started playing the puzzle and wanted to make them, I found it to be very difficult. Making the classroom puzzles, in which the shape of the puzzle is not a square and words are not continuous, with one-letter boxes with no definitions allowed, is easy. Making newspaper style where there's a symmetry to the puzzle, with the shortest word length of three, is much harder. I recall buying a DOS crossword maker on 5.25" floppy disk. I even filled out some form, wrote a paper check, mailed the whole thing in, and waited a few weeks for the ware to arrive. I do not recall ever trying the software seriously. I don't know what happened then, I was a single guy with an undemanding job, with no family and few other responsibilities.

Flash forward to the year 2007. This time around I need a Mac program to make the puzzle. There are not that many choices, really. Again, to make classroom puzzles there are a few choices, but I can even use online program like http://puzzlemaker.school.discovery.com/CrissCrossSetupForm.html , no need to spend any money. My search ended with Crossword Express OS X (cwe OS X). While the interface is somewhat awkward and not pretty, it's a strong program that allows for customized dictionaries in addition to standard ones. Choose an existing grid or make your own, plug in some words that you want to be included with their definitions, then cwe OS X will fill in the rest for you. For my purpose, I needed to make a puzzle that includes words about my office life, the CNA exam, and computing in general. I entered the relevant terms and definitions into three separate dictionaries, then used cwe OS X's Construct Special Interest Puzzles feature to make the puzzle. I chose my three custom dictionaries as three sources for the program to draw words from, then whatever open is filled with words drawn from the English dictionary. cwe OS X actually can handle up to four custom dictionaries. If I had more time, I would have created a dictionary just for words related to the Mac.

The puzzle below, printed to poster size, is the current occupant of the whiteboard I usually decorated with my cartoons. I had much fun making up the definitions. For example, "You should get yours up-to-date" is the clue for RESUME. I'm not sure if the acronym PODS made it in, but I know I define it as "It's supposed to help you plan your career, if you are still here a year from now." PODS is the web-based tool to carry out performance review, which in my opinion is just a waste of time. Ideally, the puzzle should be about 21x21 in size and not have one-letter, undefined "word". Unfortunately, such puzzle would contain very few references to the three custom dictionaries. If I have more time, I would define more terms for the custom dictionaries, perhaps then 21x21 puzzle would be better. For now, I have to be content with this Huge gride and the many one-letter undefined words.

For security purpose, I've Photoshopped the picture that represents the puzzle and clues to not have some references to corporate info.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:05 PM

    You have way too much time-The Lone Gunman