One never tires of word puzzles (I am assuming here that you love them in the first place). Crossword is the oldest of them all. It predates the other popular word game, Scrabble by nearly 40 years. 120 years later, the black and white square grids remain as engaging as the first published one in 1913. From the first diamond shaped puzzle to the many interactive variants we see today on iPhones and Androids; from Word-Cross to Cross-Word to Crossword, the game has been integral in making us lookup the dictionary and boost our vocabulary.
Creating your own crossword puzzles has its own uses beyond just playing for fun. And I am not talking about Reverend John Graham who used it to tell readers that he is dying of cancer. Word puzzles are the easiest party games and it is very easy to make and print word search puzzles. You can use it as a part of an interactive entry test to see if candidates have grasped the basics; revise key points of a lecture with a crossword puzzle; use crosswords as a team building exercise; build it into a promotional scheme; and okay…let’s stop here – I am sure you got my point. If you did, let’s turn to a few tools you can use to create crossword puzzles of your own.
1 Across: On The Electronic Highway
Online Crosswords is a large database of printable crosswords and also those you can print online. 8700+ crosswords should help you to pass a few more years playing the word game. The database is growing each day, and you also get to play seven crosswords daily – online or download their printable versions.
The site also has its own Crossword Puzzles’ Word Directory that gives you a selection of 106,937 words to solve or create your own crossword puzzles with. 6,186 layouts give you plenty of choice to design your own. (Directory mention)
The PuzzleMaker doesn’t specifically say it is for crosswords. There are ten different types of puzzles you can create – Criss-Cross is the closest that comes to the nature of crosswords. Think of it as a simpler version of the popular game.
Creating your own Criss-Cross puzzle takes just four simple steps. The end result gives you a printable puzzle which you can use for classroom teaching or for leisure at home. The PuzzleMaker is a nice free teacher resource from Discovery Education.
It’s always nice to come across a site that is simple, without ads, and has one core function that it performs well. Crossword Labs – as the site says – is the simplest way to build, print, share and solve crossword puzzles online. It’s free, fast and easy. The puzzles can be downloaded as PDF or Word files and printed.
One of the nicer features is that you can also generate a password protected answer key for your clues. The crossword can be quickly shared with a flotilla of sites. Crossword Labs comes highly recommended if you are looking for a quick way to generate powerful crossword puzzles using the simplest method possible.
Educaplay [No Longer Available]
Educaplay is one of those sites tucked away in the recesses of the web that you might not discover unless you were searching for interactive educational tools. Crosswords are one of the multimedia learning activities you can do here. It is multimedia because a definition can be shown with a word, a sound, or an image. If you don’t get the answer, you can use the letter clue and the word clue. To create your own free crosswords, you have to register and then start off with a new ‘activity’.
Educaplay supports various European languages and you can create crosswords in any of them. The unique feature is that you can define a comprehension level and create multimedia crosswords with words, sounds, and images. The crosswords are created as embeddable Flash or HTML5 objects. You can even collect the Top 10 results from those who play the puzzle. A crossword gallery also allows you to use many of the created crosswords.
This is the home for The Free Online Crossword Compiler, a fancy name for an online tool that allows you to create crosswords quickly. Start with the Instant Crossword which is a list of clues and answers to generate a grid. For the clues, you can choose from Quick, Cryptic, or Themed. The Professional Compiler goes a few steps ahead and lets you define a template for the grid (e.g. Standard, American, or Freeform). The above screenshot shows a professional themed template.
The Free Online Crossword Compiler is a slick and usable crossword tool that gives you great deal of flexibility. The crossword data is saved in the database and also checked for obvious errors and only then it is made available online. You have your own crossword page where people can come and complete your crosswords.
2 Down: A Computer Program
Puzzle Workshop is a little (701 KB) downloadable crossword generator for Windows that allows you to create freeform crosswords. The paid version lets you create newspaper-standard crosswords. The free version features crosswords between 10×10 and 30×30 squares and comes with support for word lists. The software auto-generates a large number of different fills and also scores them for you using an algorithm. You can import word lists from an external source and also customize the clues.
Puzzle Workshop prints the generated file in Rich Text or HTML. A free demo version (that allows import of a maximum of 50 words from external sources) is available for download. To download the fully-functioning version that can import much longer word lists, you need to email the developer.
Across Lite (Windows & Mac)
Across Lite is a free crossword tool that enables you to create, publish, and solve crossword puzzles on your computer. It is available for both Windows and Mac. Across Lite has its own proprietary format (.puz) for publishing the puzzles. Publishers like New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, The Onion etc. make their puzzles available in this format.
We talked about the various facets of Across Lite including how you can create crosswords of your own when we went down & across to solve crossword puzzles with Across Lite. Now, you can also upload your crosswords in the Across Lite format and publish them as interactive puzzles on blogs and websites for free.
For me Across Lite is the best tool for creating (and publishing) my own crossword puzzles. But EclipseCrossword also deserves a look. It is not so feature packed; but if you are looking for a simpler tool for the classroom, then this could be it. You just need to feed it a list of words (a word list) and the corresponding clues.
I did a very early review on how to use Eclipse Crossword to design your own crossword puzzles. The review still holds true, so do check it out. EclipseCrossword is Windows only.
From all the signs out there on moving buses and subway trains, solving crosswords is more popular than creating them. But rest assured there are tools for both the jobs. Both take some creative enterprise. My favored tool as I mentioned before is Across Lite. No other crossword publishing tool comes close to it in terms of all-round capabilities. If your hunt doesn’t end here, try out Ray Hamel’s page for a listing. Do note that some software over there could be outdated and also not freeware. If you find the spade for the job, come back and tell us in the comments. We crossword buffs deserve to have a few words together.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons