Xword is GTK program for doing crossword puzzles. It is similar to the Across Lite program for Windows, and it can read and write puzzles in the Across Lite file format. Consequently, it works well for doing puzzles from The New York Times. Although there is an existing version of AcrossLite for Linux, it has several annoying problems: poor support, the use of Motif, and the lack of a clock. Xword uses the more modern GTK widgets. As well as a clock, the latest version supports printing. It also auto-saves puzzles as you solve them so that you can return to partially completed puzzles.
Solving a puzzle (click to enlarge)
Printing a puzzle (click to enlarge)
The latest version was released on July 22nd, 2006.
Xword is packaged with Debian and Ubuntu systems already. If you run one of these systems, you can install Xword simply by typing:
sudo apt-get install xword
If you run a different distribution, you will have to install Xword manually. Xword is written in Python. To use it, you need PyGTK 2.0. Nowadays, most Linux distributions come with some version of this library. You also need Python and GTK. If you want to print puzzles, you need the GNOME print libraries installed along with their Python bindings. However, these libraries are optional.
Download Xword to whatever location you like. Extract it using any archive extraction tool. For example, from the command line run tar zxf xword-1.0.tar.gz, which will create a directory xword-1.0. The xword executable is located in this directory. Xword does not need to go in any particular location, although all the files in the xword-1.0 directory must stay together (i.e., you cannot just copy the xword executable to /usr/bin).
First, locate a puzzle on the web. The best place to go is the web site of The New York Times. However, it costs money to access these puzzles. Free puzzles are available from The Houston Chronicle.
After you have found a puzzle, click on it in your web browser. Your browser will ask you if you would like to open the file or to save it. Choose to open it and, when prompted, locate the xword executable. Xword will open the puzzle and you can start solving. You can also choose to save the puzzle on your hard disk. Then you can open the puzzle using Xword later.
After you have worked on a puzzle for a while, you may want to save your work. There are two ways to save. The easiest way is to close Xword without any further action. The next time you open the same puzzle (either by opening the .puz file or by clicking the same link on the web), you will be asked whether you want to continue where you left off. If you choose to continue, all your correct and incorrect answers will be saved, as well as the time on the clock.
However, this technique only works for opening the puzzle on the same computer. If you need to open the saved puzzle on a different computer, then you can choose "Save" from the "File" menu. The saved file can be opened with Xword or Across Lite on any computer. However, incorrect answers and the time on the clock will not be saved. Eventually, I plan to fix this problem.
Select "Print" from the "File" menu. You can see what the printed puzzle will look like by clicking "Print Preview". You can select the paper size and orientation by clicking on the "Paper" tab (puzzles are usually easier to read in landscape mode).
Sometimes a puzzle will be locked so that the answers are unavailable. Unfortunately, Xword's support for locked puzzles is somewhat flaky. When using a locked puzzle, you should not click on the "Check" or "Solve" buttons, since they will give incorrect information. However, you can still use Xword to enter answers for a locked puzzle. Later, when an unlocked version of the puzzle is released (usually the next day), open it using Xword. When asked, choose to continue where you left off. Now you can use the "Check" and "Solve" buttons to see how well you did. (Sometimes crosswords will come with a four-digit code to unlock a locked puzzle file. This code is not needed by Xword.)
Please send bug reports, comments, and feature requests to bill.mccloskey at gmail.com. The main problem that I know of is poor support for locked puzzles.Last modified: Tue Jul 22 19:26:42 PDT 2006