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A Crossword Puzzle Reference Resource

Over 70 years in the making

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A Crossword Puzzle Reference Resource

The Crossworders' Dictionary & Gazetteer v.5

Will Weiss
Yetta Weiss spent many years of her life compiling a database of daily crossword puzzle clues and answers. After some 65 years, it had grown to over a million words and almost 145,000 individually referenced look-up words. It was an enormous but much-loved task for this perseverent lady who hoped one day to share it with the world. Fortunately, the Internet and digital publishing came along and so, with the technical expertise of her son, Will, her life-long labor of love finally saw the light of day. For the past several years Will has continued to improve it and The Crossworders' Dictionary & Gazetteer now has 218,000 individual look-up words with over two million total words including definitions (clues) with cross-referenced, supporting information.

15,000 pages and counting...

The entire database can be instantly downloaded from the Web and at a very affordable price. When it comes to books, some people may prefer the hard copy but digital versions are a godsend for reference works. One can do wild card searches, locating the information is a mouse click away and there's no losing one's place or wrestling with unwieldy tomes. Bear in mind that this reference is the equivalent of 15,000 pages!

Version 5 Boasts A Major Improvement

The single biggest improvement in the latest version is the "User Generated Dictionary". This allows you to create a personalized dictionary of answer words with their relevant clues that features the same search functionality as the main dictionary.

I suggested this component be added to the dictionary when I did the original review of version 2 a number of years ago. The developer said it was a great idea but it was difficult to implement. Thank you, Will, for putting in the time and effort.

The advantage this affords is deal changing as new words and phrases are entering the language at an accelerated rate in this age of texting and tweeting. Being able to compile a dictionary with the freshest ingredients means constructors can cook up puzzles with the liveliest fill and solvers can enjoy a more savory puzzling experience.

A Solid Base Grows A Solid Tree

The heart of The Crossworders' Dictionary & Gazetteer has always been robust so, as long as this reference work is continuously upgraded, it can only get better. I would like to see a version for mobile devices. How many times do puzzlers get an idea while 'on-the-go'?

[UPDATE: The developer informs me that a mobile application would require an entire rewrite and though it is in the works, it will not happen in the short term.]

Next on my wish list is the ability to edit the main dictionary. (I'm not a programmer so I may be asking for the moon.) This would eliminate the 'best-before-date' on certain clues. For example, if you look up "AL GORE" the clue refers to the vice-president. So, to keep things timely it would be nice to be able to edit that clue to something more relevant: perhaps, "Inconvenient Truth" author (or Internet inventor :).

Also, many of the longer entries are answers from themed crossword puzzles. Taken out of context these don't always make sense. For instance, PUREDNADSENOTEG is included among the 15-letter entries and it had me scratching my head. Then I read it backwards: GET ONES DANDER UP. This entry was clued as "Become angry, literally" and appeared as a down entry in a New York Times crossword by Bob Klahn in December, 1994. It was "literally" meant to be read upwards from bottom to top. (Very clever, Bob!)

Another 15-letter entry, while less cryptic, is also confusing: YOU CANT DO THIS TO. It, too, was a themed entry in a New York Times puzzle by Stephanie Spadaccini that was published in August, 1997, and, when viewed along with its companion entries, it's perfectly legit.

[UPDATE II: The developer has informed me that the ability to edit the main dictionary would not only require an entire rewrite but would also allow any programmer to steal the entire database.]

If an editable "on-the-fly" database is not feasible, perhaps the developer would consider an online forum or 'suggestion box' where users could submit entries from the database that they consider flawed. I have found examples of entries that are factually wrong or simply misspelt.

The title of the song, "Jimmy Crack Corn" is listed as JIMMIE CRACK CORN because that is what appeared in a New York Times crossword puzzle in June, 2002 (the constructor, I assume, needed a 15-letter entry). But it is wrong and should be corrected. Also ALGEBRA IQUATION is listed but it seems more likely that it should be ALGEBRA EQUATION. These are minor problems but it woud be nice to see them cleaned up.

[UPDATE III: The developer plans to add an online user feedback mechanism to solicit user found errors and comments.]

Great Resource For Solvers

There are a number of ways to search for an answer word in The Crossworders' Dictionary & Gazetteer. Of course you can enter as many letters as you know using a question mark (?) for the unknowns. Enter M?P?E? and the program will return everything from MAPLES to MUPPET.

However, if you have no letters you can enter ?????? and a keyword from the clue. In this case I used, "Persia" as the key word, and the program returned an astonishing 59 possibilities. Clicking on any of those possible answer words takes you directly to that entry and it's relevant clues. Try that with your hardcopy puzzle dictionary!

Also new in this version is the ability to use a 'whole' or 'partial' key word. In my example, I used "Persia" as a 'partial' key word so the program included "Persian" and "Persians" in the results.

As in many crossword dictionaries, one can browse by first letter or by number of letters from 2-15.

There is also the Gazetteer which lists geographic entities and has been vastly expanded and includes rivers, mountains, cities, lakes, currencies, etc.

The Almanac which lists prizes, awards, Shakespearean works, films, songs, Walk of Fame, has been updated and most entries such as Nobel Prizes, Academy Awards, etc., are current up to 2010. (You can include the 2011 winners when compiling your 'Private Dictionary'.)

Another upgrade is that any clue key words used in a search are then highlighted within the database. This is an immensely helpful visual aid. Also, there are three other font choices besides the default font. The ability to increase font size will be welcome news for older eyes that may be tired of squinting at printed dictionaries.

The Crossworders' Dictionary & Gazetteer will continue to be a valuable addition to everyone's solving/creating reference library. And considering the price, there is a lot of bang for the buck. The developer has been very busy and there are many great new features in version 5. Check it out at crosswordstar.com

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