toward a free crossword puzzler

Recently, Daniel Jalkut was doing that thing that has, sadly, become pretty popular in modern blogging: announcing his hot new product before telling us what it’s for. (Did this start with Segway? I’m sure there are some prior examples that I can’t think of.) Anyway, it turned out to be Black Ink, a really nice looking Cocoa-based crossword puzzle program. It started out pretty buggy, but has gotten a little better. It costs $25, which probably isn’t too unreasonable, but I can’t see myself spending that much on a game that I’ll only play now and then.

It works by downloading files from newspaper sites. They’re named things like “Wall Street Journal (3-23-07).puz” and their contents looked pretty straight-forward. I found some good notes on the format compiled by Josh Meyer, and that led me to produce Games::Crossword::Puzzle, which I used to produce a simple HTML formatted crossword template.

I’d really like to write a PUZ-to-HTML compiler to produce playable cross-platform puzzles. It should actually be pretty easy, although getting the interface down will take a while of experimentation and tweaking. I’m not sure how I want to handle saving state. In an ideal world, I would have some simple way to bless the file as having permission to update a section of itself, saving form state. That just isn’t possible. Other solutions seem to include compiling to Firefox chrome (John C. suggests that mere XUL will not have useful access to Firefox’s offline storage) or using Dojo Offline.

If only Curses::UI worked properly on Mac OS X, I might consider using that, instead.

Genius-brain-inspired suggestions welcome.

Written on April 30, 2007