Wednesday 10 November 2010

Embed Interactive Crosswords Within Your Blog / Website

Across Lite Embed You're probably familiar with Across Lite, the popular crossword interface. Literate Software (LitSoft), the creators of Across Lite, have now launched a free crossword sharing/embedding service. This service allows you to embed crosswords in interactive format within web sites and blogs, and share them easily with others on twitter, facebook, emails, etc.

This is a great utility for amateur/freelance crossword setters as it lets them offer interactive crosswords from within their sites instead of having to host them elsewhere. It's pretty simple and quick to set up as well.

How To Use The Service

Upload your crossword in "Across format" at this location. [Instructions for how to create Across format crosswords]

Once uploaded, the service emails you the link to a private page. This gives you:

  • A direct link to the crossword, which you can share on social media to send people to a custom page for your crossword
  • Code for embedding the crossword, which you can copy-paste into your blog/website. You have two sizes to choose from: Standard width (595w x 440h) and Narrow (520w x 472h).

Note: You must have the rights to publish the crossword you upload!

A Live Demo

Below is a narrow-width sample crossword, a US-style cryptic. [RSS readers: please visit the blog to view the interactive grid.]

Each solver gets their own copy of the crossword to solve. Work in progress can be saved via browser cookies.

Sorry, but it looks like Java is either not available or enabled in this browser.

On a Mac or PC, you can download the crossword to solve with Across Lite installed on your computer.

If you do not have Across Lite installed, you can download a free copy from here

Try it out for yourself. You can read more about the service and give your feedback to its creators Litsoft here. You might also like to follow the newly launched Litsoft blog for their thoughts on the commercial aspects of the crossword industry.

Related Posts:

If you wish to keep track of further articles on Crossword Unclued, you can subscribe to it in a reader via RSS Feed. You can also subscribe by email and have articles delivered to your inbox, or follow me on twitter to get notified of new links.


anax said...

Anything which encourages people to get involved with crosswords will always get a thumbs-up from me, but I have to be honest and say I’ve never been particularly enthusiastic about AcrossLite. There isn’t anything wrong with it – as a solving tool it’s very useful – but for setters it sadly has little to offer.

For setters who are serious about writing puzzles there is little choice but to (eventually) fork out money on either Crossword Compiler or Crosswordman (in my case both). It isn’t the attraction of these packages effectively ‘creating a crossword for you’; it’s just that they both take out so much of the tedium associated with grid artworks, layouts etc. They also eliminate the perils of mis-numbered grids, missing/incorrect enumeration, blah blah.

And both are very strong when it comes to exporting puzzles in a variety of formats – including, by the way, .PUZ! CC in particular is excellent in terms of the export process presenting lots of formatting options, and one of the export options is automatically uploaded interactive puzzles which, with very little effort, can look marvellous – you can even add pictures!

This AcrossLite add-on’s selling point is largely centred on an ability to embed the interactive code in your own webspace. To me that’s actually a disadvantage. An exported interactive puzzle from CC goes onto the CC server, which is no less secure than e.g. your WordPress server, and the only space you need on your own webpage is a short line of hyperlink text.

Granted, if your plan is to have just one very occasional crossword on your blog, embedding it will hardly do any harm. But if you write a lot of puzzles you’d more likely want to list them as clickable URLs and let the remote server do the presentation legwork. The only disadvantage I see in that is the need for you to remember to make the links open in a new window so that visitors can comment on your puzzles without potentially losing progress by navigating forward/back.

It’s not all bad though! One thing about AcrossLite which is very good indeed is the array of presentation options for puzzles you want to solve. For US-style crosswords especially, it’s often quite easy to get nearly all of the clues in view. CC’s export options let you specify various applet dimensions but it’s quite fiddly; AcrossLite is far better in that respect.

Shuchi said...

Hi Anax

It's nice to hear from a professional setter's perspective. My familiarity with Crossword Compiler is only as a solver of the Indy puzzles. I'd love to hear what other setters have to say, too.

I guess there is a reason why some apps are free and others not. I've tried many free/inexpensive apps for image editing, for example, but none come close to Photoshop.

Shuchi said...

A clarification on:

This AcrossLite add-on’s selling point is largely centred on an ability to embed the interactive code in your own webspace. To me that’s actually a disadvantage. An exported interactive puzzle from CC goes onto the CC server, which is no less secure than e.g. your WordPress server, and the only space you need on your own webpage is a short line of hyperlink text.

Internally, even the embedding with AcrossLite happens in the same way. The interactive puzzle is not hosted by my server but AcrossLite's, and the embedding is done through a tiny code snippet. The puzzle consumes no space on my blog. The option for a clickable URL instead of embedding is also available.

Guda said...

Hi anax, thanks for your detailed comments. Shuchi has already clarified on your misunderstanding of the way this Across Lite based service works and how and where the puzzles are hosted. This is not any different from online video or photo sharing services that provide the hosting and distribution that most people are familiar with.

I suppose it is a testament to the seamless way in which we have designed this, that you should mistake it for being hosted on the blog!

Comparison between Across Lite and crossword compiling programs is an "apples and oranges" one and they are not mutually exclusive.

Across software specializes in publication and distribution and user experience for solving, crossword compiling programs specialize in crossword construction for setters. They are very complementary and not alternatives to each other.

Neither the features Across Lite provides for creating nor the features crossword compiling programs provide for publishing are their core strengths even if they may satisfy some casual uses beyond their core use.

This is very much like using a word processor to construct a document and relying on the availability and penetration of Adobe readers and plug-ins to distribute in a PDF format. The fact that you can also publish the .DOC format from Microsoft Word (and they have their own free readers) isn't a good reason to choose it over the PDF mechanism. Similarly, the ease of publishing. consumer usage and penetration of Adobe readers is not a good reason to give up on word processors and use much less capable PDF editors (from Adobe or from elsewhere) to create documents.

The most common paradigm in the US for crosswords is the use of crossword compilers to construct crosswords (or even the old fashioned paper and pencil!) and use of Across Lite for electronic publication. That way people can use any creation software/method they prefer but not be limited by the publication/distribution options that come with that particular software. There is a good reason why the crossword compilers export to .PUZ formats.

Across Lite is in a similar position as PDF readers when it comes to electronic distribution of crosswords with its ubiquity and choice of software (installed or via browser plug-ins) specializing in user experience for solving online or printing.

This service based on Across Lite for publishing can be used with any crossword compiling program for setting that exports .PUZ files.