If you use an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, try out this app called Puzzazz, a collection of puzzle e-books that allow you to solve puzzles directly on the pages of the e-books.
The Puzzazz app has been developed by a Seattle-based puzzle technology startup, founded by crossword setter and software architect Roy Leban.
For cryptic crossword solvers, Puzzazz has four e-books in the bookstore at present including one by Brian Greer, popularly known as Brendan in The Guardian. His e-book Across and Down the Guardian Path with Brendan contains 20 handpicked puzzles originally published in The Guardian, including one that was discussed in 2009 on Crossword Unclued: Sample a Themed Guardian Crossword. The other three cryptic crossword books are by Mike Selinker, Todd Rew and Wayne Robert Williams, setters of repute on the American cryptic circuit - visit the author profiles page for details.
"TouchWrite" for handwriting recognition
The app lets you enter crossword answers in an interactive grid using either the keyboard, or a unique feature developed by the Puzzazz team called "TouchWrite" - a way to hand-write answers on the screen with your finger. TouchWrite recognizes a variety of different writing styles: for example, you can draw an E in one stroke like a backwards 3, or in four strokes. The technology seems pretty intuitive and it doesn't require much practice to get it to work accurately. If you do need help, the app provides a TouchWrite guidelines section.
The ability to write directly on the puzzle is very useful on smaller devices like an iPhone because the keyboard takes up a lot of screen space. Check out the video at the end of the post to see TouchWrite in action.
How much does it cost?
The price per e-book ranges from $0.99 to $4.99. The app itself is free, and every e-book in the store is "try before you buy" - at least the first puzzle in every e-book is fully solvable without cost. To view the free puzzle, tap on its number/title. If you view the other non-free puzzles, they will be greyed out and the option to buy will be shown above the puzzle.
Screenshots from Brian Greer's e-book:
At this time, the Puzzazz store contains 29 puzzle e-books by 17 constructors. Puzzles available so far include crosswords (cryptic and quick) and other word/logic puzzles such as rebuses.
Demo: Watch Puzzazz in action
Here's a 1:38 min video of Puzzazz (version 2.0) in action. The video shows an overview of the e-bookstore, the cryptic crossword page with a sample crossword by Mike Selinker, and the use of keyboard + TouchWrite to enter answers. I guess it is obvious from the demo that I am not accustomed to a touchscreen! Thanks to my friend Paul Schloss for lending his iPhone to try out Puzzazz. [RSS/email subscribers: In case you can't see the video embedded below, please visit the blog.]
Have a look at this Geekwire video as well, which includes a voiceover by Puzzazz founder Roy Leban.
- Wordplay: a documentary on the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament
- Dr.Fill, Crossword solving software to compete with human solvers
- Life in Black and White: The Atlantic documentary on crosswords
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