: New: Crossword Compiler Noob Diary

Unsurprisingly, creating mediocre crossword puzzles is easy but creating good crossword puzzles is hard. Mind you, I don't feel pressured to create great crossword puzzles. For puzzlehunts, I only need to create acceptable gimmicky crossword puzzles. Solvers might roll their eyes when they see a puzzle that uses both TSAR and CZAR, but maybe they'll forget all about that when they notice that the Os form the shape of the Big Dipper or whatever. But so far, I'm not even making acceptable puzzles.

I think my next hurdle is compiling a good word list. Crossword Compiler comes with a pretty darned good set of lists! But it seems like it could be better. It doesn't know about Hank Aaron. Hank Aaron's kind of a big deal, right? I don't know baseball, but I've heard of Hank Aaron. I tried throwing in the Nutrimatic 100k phrases list. As you recall, Nutrimatic is a smart word-finding tool that normally uses a big pile of data from wikipedia. That knows about Hank Aaron. Unfortunately for this purpose, it also knows about phrases like "of this" and "from his" and "category list of left handed accordionists". OK, I made that last one up. I think. I'm not sure what exactly would happen if I made a crossword puzzle full of stuff like "of this" and "from his", but I suspect it involves Tyler Hinman bringing back the #badpuzzles Twitter hashtag.

I took one step in a good direction. I went back to Nutrimatic's wikipedia data. I cranked out a bunch of Nutrimatic-ranked phrases, but then filtered that list to only things that were titles of wikipedia articles. Although "of this" appears many many times in Wikipedia, there's no article about the phrase (yet). So that's a step in a good direction... but it's just a step. Kind of a stumbling, gimpy step. Consider that Wikipedia has information about John R. Adler, John R. Bolton, John R. Allen, John R. Commons, John R. Lynch, John R. Brinkley,... Uhm, you get the idea. It also has an article about a I-hadn't-heard-of-him D.J. named "John R." My system sees all of those John R. This and John R That and happily thinks "John R" is a common phrase, so it enthusiastically suggests that "John R." is a good phrase for crossword puzzles. And it's perhaps overfond of mononymous Bollywood stars. And it makes other... questionable choices.

This seems work-aroundable. I bet there are good word lists out there. I don't know where to find them. I can find Scrabble cheat-lists aplenty. I can find lists of many obscure words... words about as much fun to solve as "from his". But I bet I can eventuallyfind good word lists. Meanwhile, my tinkerer's heart enjoys an excuse to tweak better words out of Nutrimatic. Meanwhile, I jot down a blog entry so I can remember what it was like to get started. This is today, as the saying goes.


1. Dermis
5. Household expenditure part of GDP
8. Nooteboom's first name
12. Open-source file and directory integrity checker
13. Ambience
14. Heavy metal sculptor
15. Sicilian town
16. Security's biggest obstacle
17. Story about Trojans
18. Not deciduous
20. MLB postseason game
21. Bridges in movies
22. ___ Claire, Wis.
23. Adobe Flash ___ is full of zero-days
26. IPv4 security check recommended on April 1, 2003
30. Angkor ___
31. Character
34. Left tributary of the Aller
35. In Milan, she co-starred with Sunil
37. Cryptography that fails to prevent piracy
38. City of North Sinai
39. Actor Estrada
40. Computer language for switches
42. Alumna bio word
43. Wrote about Nickleby, Chuzzlewit, and Copperfield
45. City of canals
47. Neither Rep. nor Dem
48. Makers of "Freedom" IPTV boxes
50. Em, to Dorothy
52. Tenth novel by 43 Across
56. French economist org.
57. Prefix with dextrous
58. ___ Pagoda, a Burmese stupa
59. R&B DJ
60. Star Wars sister
61. Ping is the ___ of networks
62. They make motorcycle helmets
63. A little bit of work
64. Knee/ankle connector

1. Air-defense computer in the 60s and 70s
2. Ukraine's capital
3. Like some threats
4. Almost
5. Edward Bouverie _____, English theologian
6. Christian rock band
7. Bring home the bacon
8. Mobile, for phones
9. Security researcher Byres
10. Ages
11. Dejected
13. McAfee's name for 2009 hacks on Google, others
14. Egyptian peninsula
19. Early astronaut from Ohio
22. She wants to spy on Alice and Bob
23. r00tzorrd
24. Frontman of The Rasmus
25. Loft (not l0pht)
26. Columnist Bombeck
27. Pancakes from RBN-land
28. Ways to keep packets safe
29. Titter
32. The first was launched on STS-6
33. http://ccc.de/en/, e.g.
36. Telugu film star ___ Nageswara Rao
38. Fed
40. ___ point security: each device is responsible for itself
41. Makers of the ActiveArmor firewall
44. Middle Earth password system: "Speak, friend, and _____"
46. ___ Off: stage play about a stage play
48. Last British resident in Guantanmo Bay
49. Boris and Natasha's boss
50. Commune in the Nord department in northern France
51. Ancient city in Galilee
52. Their pet doors are rated highest in ensuring protection against bugs
53. Greatly
54. K-12
55. World's #1 supplier of mobile video surveillance for the bus and coach industry
56. Jongleurs' org

Tags: puzzle scene programming words

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