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Jethro Tull has a song called Crossword and The Partridge Family had a whole album called Crossword Puzzle. I hasten to add that this information was gleaned from searching Google and not from searching my record collection… honest!
Nothing to be ashamed of, Testy. Jethro Tull were a very fine band, and I used to have a crush on Susan Dey of the Partridge Family, but we only had a black and white TV so I wasn’t aware that she was orange in real life. There’s some serious unching on that Crossword Puzzle record sleeve, though.
That’s a neat way to bring together the Partridge Family and Andy Partridge. On the subject of which, how can a song written by Andy Partridge 25 years ago win Best Original Song at the 2009 Radio 2 folk awards? Chris Wood woz robbed.
Oh my goodness! A chat room!, Dang I never realised it was here, and I see I’ve missed incarnation 1 already! Maybe it was a day I wasn’t on, but I missed any announcements. Oh, well I shall scout around and see wha else gives.
I have to say it is a blessed relief because life just isn’t simple. Side issues will always arise so thank goodness we are no longer given the choice of supress valid side issues or go off topic. I prefer debate to suppression as y’all have probably noticed. And if that has upset people then sorry, but any suppression of debate is intensely worrying to me. It smacks of the sort of society most of us would not want to live in.
No replies are needed to the above, y’all aired the surrounding issues in version 1, sorry I missed it.
Anyway, enough of rhubarb, I’d like to share my experience of using freebie crossword software, but a question first
What is the difference between a blog and a forum? As a user of both I’m struggling to see how the two differ. The only obvious thing seems to be who is allowed to start new threads. Is that really enough to warrant different names?
So anyway, to briefly recap what I’ve mentioned elsewhere, for want of anywhere better, I took it upon myself to do a one off xword for my preserved railway’s magazine. This is not sufficient to warrant paying money to buy compilation software, hence I tried the freebies.
As a result I have found 3 Windows applications which do at least part of the job. There are a host of applications which take a word list and generate a grid, but how you are supposed to get a valid grid (according to UK standards) from that process is not clear. Hence the limited number of applications I settled on.
The first I tried was Compiler Writer. A slightly fiddly user interface, but it does the job well enough. If all you want to do is print out your work it is fine. But it only saves files of it’s own file format. I wanted to get my work into MS Word for my editor, and also Across Lite format so that I could easily have my work tested prior to publication (Across Lite being a free “player” utility that is widely used, The New York Times for example).
The second I tried was Compiler Utility. This is a bit restricted and not really useful if your design method is try and see then rework as required. Nor does it have any direct method of entering clues. However, directly via the clipboard, or indirectly via saved bit map files, it is possible to get the puzzle and solutions grids to my editor in a Word document, but no clues! And no Across Lite either. Sigh.
At that point I wrote a wrapper program in Delphi 7 to guide a user through using Compiler Writer for grid and solution generation, manual (sadly) copying to Copiler Utility, and then saving a number of different styles of output from Compiler Utility. My app then provided a chance input header and note information, plus the clues by (forgive the immodesty) a rather nice little clue editor. My app then generated the files I was otherwise missing.
If that sounds like a bit of a fag, you would not be wrong, but it was still vastly easier than generating the extra files by hand.
Our good friend Rishi has tried a copy and has been too polite to tell me how bad it may be! What he did tell me however, was that there is a very well hidden (as in hard to find by web searches)application which is called Crossword Compiler. NO! Not the famous one that costs money. This is a freebie from Spoobill Software.
This has the basic functionality of it’s more illustrious rival and does most of what I want. That is, I can create crosswords in my do it in bits, suck it and see method (though it is ever so slightly fiddly in doing that). And it outputs in several formats including Across Lite! What it doesn’t do is any graphical output of grids. Sigh.
So, I have written another Delphi 7 program! This one, unlike it’s predecessor, provides an utterly trivial solution. You create and save your work in a file of the Spoonbill Compiler’s default text format. You run my program. All you have to do is select the symmetry type, hit one button, then select your crossword file in a standard “open file” box. And that is all you need to do in my app! The app then creates 3 new files, one for inclusion in MS Word (or whatever), which contains the clues, and two for use by Crossword Utility, the puzzle and solution grids. My app then starts Crossword Utility and you simply open those two files in turn and immediately save them in bit map format. And that is it, job done. The bit maps and clues can be dumped in a Word (or other) document. If you want your friends to test the xword with Across Lite, then you can get a file for that directly from the Spoonbill Crossword Compiler.
I have sent a copy to Rishi. No doubt he will be polite again!
Personally, I wouldn’t want to re-use my original program, but if anyone who already uses CW and CU wants a totally free copy let me know. But you would be better off using the Spoonbill Compiler Writer, then if you need to get your work into a word processor or desktop publisher use my second gadget in conjunction with Compiler Utility. Again, let me know if you want this freebie. My set up files for both my applications include Compiler Utility as it is a single free standing .exe file that needs no installation actions of it’s own. d dot lazenby at ntlworld dot com is the address you need.
Anyone who wants to chat in general is also welcome to use that address, but in that case IM may be easier, I’m passingidiot on Yahoo.
When I was compiling crosswords some years ago there was no internet, in fact no computers either, so all the grids were carefully hand drawn with a ruler & fine point pen, then the black squares carefully inked in one by one. I rather enjoyed that.
And what a shame you missed Chat Room version 1, Derek. It was huge fun while it lasted, but I suspect your input would have added even more spice to the festivities. We can only hope for another lively & slightly scurrilous romp such as that. Ah, me I shall have to subside into my Brisbane nest again for a while.
Derek – there are a few operational/organisational differences between a blog and a forum, but more significant is the intent. A blog is meant to be more like a journal, but with the opportunity for readers to leave feedback, while a forum is more an open discussion between multiple users of equal status (albeit possibly with restrictions on who can start threads) and how much off-topic comment is tolerated varies from one forum to another.
I don’t think a chat thread fits very comfortably in a blog format, but I wouldn’t necessarily propose changing the format either – the blog format suits the primary intent of what fifteensquared is about.
Thanks for that. Chat may well not fit the prime aim. But that is theory, we are real people, real people never fit theory. We like to socialise as all people do. Where else do we do it? This way is best. A good ole compromise. Anyone who seriously only wants to stay on topic doesn’t have to be here, but at the same time the rest of us can say hi etc without cluttering the main threads. So theoretically (that word again), everyone should be happier, if not entirely delerious.
I never minded reading a bit of chat and banter on the Guardian blogs, it gave it a friendly feel.
While I accept there’s a fine line between a bit of extraneous chat and prattling on ad nauseum, the bits of background and interests both bloggers and commenters have revealed have for the most part been interesting and I don’t see what’s wrong with people bonding and feeling part of a community.
Come on Bella … Don’t be a chicken, where’s that irrevertial colonial spirit!!!!
Altho, I too agree with Fletch… feeling a sense of community is too often missing in the world today.
Also, I went back over Chitchat1, and noticed that Paul B apologised … I missed it somehow (probably because it came after you comment about the phone call … and in my haste to respond skipped over it). Had I read that I would have acknowledged it straight away.
So Paul B if you read this … Thanks, I appreciate the gesture.
May I invite your attention to Comment #41 (by Steven) under the blog Guardian 24,633 – Araucaria of yesterday.
When I saw it this morning here in Madras in the IST zone before the sun came up fully from below the horizon in the East where the Bay of Bengal is blue, I roared so loudly that my dear wife in her beauty sleep (she is at it for years!) woke up suddenly, frowned (the sticker bindhi on her face fell off) and said “Are you mad?” It will be high noon before the tiff subsides.
I have been the co-owner and moderator of an Orkut community on crosswords for the past several years posting messages regularly, diligently and assiduously and answering hundreds of questions on parsing clues yet “the spur that the clear spirit doth raise” eludes me.
To quote from Wikipedia – Orkut is a social networking service which is run by Google and named after its creator, an employee of Google – Orkut Büyükkökten. It was designed to help users meet new friends and maintain existing relationships. Orkut is similar to other networking sites.
Orkut is the most visited website in Brazil and second most visited site in India.
Saturday afternoon.London .Weather dull.Me slight hangover.I Check out yesterdays Fifteen squared and suddenly I’m transported…..
I can see the horizen to the east on the bay of Bengal where the sea is blue and a new sun is rising and the silence of morning is broken by the sounds of laughter and accusations of madness.Now I’m laughing out loud.Thank you Rishi and Monica because amidst the madness,there is the good madness where you can make people laugh around the world and in different timezones.
Monica, talking of timezones, I’ve been playing with various bits of World Time Clock software. They seem to disagree! Some say Sydney is the same time as you, others an hour different. There is also some muttering about Olympics 2000 time or something. Could you please tell me what reality is, as opposed to computer nerd reality?
I vaguely recall someone here saying something about it can sometimes get tiresome when the number of rss generated e-mails gets too high. I have recently been looking at freebie rss readers. They same to do the job nicely without any need for e-mails. The one I have settled on, imaginatively called RSS READER, simply allows me to set a whole list of feed headlines to “Read”. Any individual ones I want to read I simply click on.
It has one very minor bug which I have reported (dang, the mail just bounced whilst typing this!). It has a pop up notification window for when new items are detected. It can be disabled or set to “Always”, or “System Tray” or “Sytem Tray or Minimised”. Sadly the latter two selections don’t produce the pop-up.
I rather like being able to set my own default values for rate of update and length of storage time, and then being able to over-ride it for individual feeds.
Derek – Monica & I both live in Brisbane. We are on “real” time; the other east coast states are on Daylight Saving Time, ie one hour ahead of Queensland. This whole daylight saving time is a subject of endless debate here with the pros insisting we should be in step with Sydney & Melbourne for business reasons & the cons saying it will confuse the cows & fade the curtains. Personally I don’t have a problem with either, it’s just not that difficult to add/subtract an hour.
Yes. Tried that. Had a bit of trouble with it. But fiddling around fixed it. I set a clock for ny friend in Texas. It came up with London time and when I looked in the clock manager it said GMT offset was FIXED, what ever that means. But I found the Location manager, selected the town and exported everything. That fixed that problem but lost me the Swatch and UTC clocks which I can’t figure out how to get back and screwed up Brisbane, (hence me looking closer). But I got Brisbane back by repeating whatI did for Midland TX. This is the latest version beta test version. I’m sure when I had it before it was less trouble than this.
Derek I tried the latest version for a while, uninstalled it, then went back to the earlier version. Much nicer, much easier to set up. I told him (as feedback) but have had no reply yet. I’m glad you had problems with the latest beta version too.
Have any of you looked at the non-Guardian blogs in terms of the number of posts, the number of contributors? Out of all of them, one blog received 11 replies, the rest were almost all low single figures including several zeroes.
Can you imagine what that must mean to the blogger, a zero response? Putting in the work and absolutely no indication that anybody appreciated it?
Why are people so reluctant to post on other blogs? What is stopping them?
We know people are reading the blogs because there are several new posters who have opened with the words that they have been watching for ages?
What has changed that these people now feel confident enough to post?
What has changed that these people are now interested enough to post?
Why do so many people who have been here a while now feel confident about admitting to not completing a puzzle when that was almost unheard of three months ago?
Which is the only blog with rapidly increasing support?
And of all the available Crossword blogs, which one is it where all this is happening? Which is the one with the sense of life and vibrancy?
I’ll tell you, it is the one that last Friday in the last post was refered to as “But then, what do you expect for a puzzle that’s free online?”.
It was not a comment from anyone who has made the effort to contribute regularly be it said. It was not a comment that had any element of being on topic, despite the hollier than thou attitude of it’s writer. Did anyone miss the tone of intellectual snobbery inherent in that? Does anybody actually want to share a blog with someone who displays that level of arrogance? It is no wonder other blogs are not attracting support if that is typical of the sort of person that lives there.
So what do the majority of people want? The frostily ice-cold academia that some imply that they prefer. If you are going to say yes, just look at the numbers. The majority have spoken.
If anybody wants an ivory tower then I suggest they start an invite only private blog
This comment was off-topic in the General Crossword Discussion post since your questions relate to this site rather than crosswords in general. On this occasion I have moved it but, as this is not a simple task, I would prefer not to have to do so again.
I don’t think bloggers assume that no response necessarily means no appreciation for their work. The better you do as a blogger at identifying the points that people might find tricky and explaining them clearly, the fewer “can anyone explain 1A?” comments there will be, so a low message count might be a source of pride! I’m more disappointed by a lack of response when the puzzle seems to have been a very good one and people can’t find the time to say so. But when you get puzzles like Dac’s or Phi’s in the Independent, which are consistently good but don’t go in for as much thematic material as others, once the blogger has said “another high-quality puzzle from Dac”, there’s a limit to the number of “yes, I agree” messages that other people will send week after week.
Is there any reason why Fifteeensquared can’t be mentioned next to the setters names in the newspapers?I stumbled across this site and nobody I’ve told about it has ever heard of it.Over the last ten years I very slowly sussed these puzzles out with little help from anybody and at times I almost gave up. I am sure countless others have given up.Since finding the good people here, I have come on leaps and bounds.
Peter, I see that that would apply to top end solvers, but as I said elsewhere, talking to many random people over many years, I have never met anyone who was good at crosswords. I have met many who try but consistently fail. If these blogs ever attract the attention of those people, then there will always be questions.
And if nothing else, the first person on after the blogger should at least have the courtesy to say thank you on behalf of the rest of us, no matter how ritualised that may be. After all, much of good manners is ritual.
Steven: The main reason I can think of for the newspapers not giving us publicity is that several of them advertising premium rate “phone for the answers” services next to the puzzle. Not much point in doing so if you also say where to read most of them for nothing, with explanations!
Peter:Thanks for the reply.For some reason I was under the impression that you could get the answers online but seeing as I’m new to the web maybe I’ve just assumed that if you can get the puzzle free then you can probably get the answers too.Personally I think the more people that know about this site the better.
As far as the Guardian cryptic is concerned the answers are there as soon as the puzzle is there – usually around midnight GMT, or 10 am here in Australia. Well 10 in Brisbane, 11 in the beknighted southern states. I don’t access any others on line so I don’t know if answers are available.
Derek – yes, I meant that in the best possible sense! And thanks, I do like being called a “girl” (or gal)- especially as I’m on the wrong side of 60. And as far as the women’s cricket goes, it is not on any free-to-air channels here so I can only follow it in the newspaper or online.
Bella, I have the same problem with free to air channels. I don’t think being over 60 is too unusual for this site. We have a scheme whereby the over 60′s can get a free bus pass for local travel (and if you have a generous local council that means local travel anywhere in England, but not the rest of the UK). I got mine in January!
Actually that worries me. Are cryptics going to die out when we do? Where are the youngsters? What can be done to get them to think that crosswords are not just for older people?
Well, Steven, I guess that’s up to the Guardian to decide. Why don’t you email the suggestion to them.
Derek – in Aus we get free long distance train travel, 2 trips per year. That means I can go to e.g. Cairns return twice each year or most other places accessable by train. In Brisbane we get train & bus concessions, usually half price.
I do know some young people fascinated by cryptics fortunately; I had hopes for my daughter at one stage but she lapsed. Might have to invent a GameBoy version!
Bella,I recently met a young man who is fascinated by cryptics and I was the first person he had met who knew anything about them.If someone shows an interest, the sooner things are explained the more likely it is that they will stay interested.Will email the paper today.
Well some of us are just on the downhill turn of 40. So no discount travel for me.
To pick up on a theme which has coloured recent posts….
After the nasty business of a week or so ago, people haven’t left the site in droves, altho the number of posts for the crossword may have decreased sligtly.
To me that indicates that a lot of us aren’t just here for the solution and discussion of such. People want and enjoy conversation, be it on line or otherwise. Chitchat or a good verbal stoush are part of being human and fortunately a part of fifteensquared.
On a much more important note … I’ve no free to air TV either. But am listening to the men’s cricket team look like they might choke again.
Monica – sorry if I gave the impression that all in Aus got free travel – applies to pensioners of course, like me. I am with you, enjoying the interaction with people who I know have at least one thing in common with me – a love of cryptic crosswords.
I fear the Australian cricket team is on a slow slide, having lost so many great players in such a short period.
I knew what you mean’t … no worries. We seem to have all become terribly apologetic recently, on the site.
As you said the joy of the site for me too, is in the interaction. I think it shows that crossword solvers come from incredibly diverse backgrounds and interests.
I was quite surprised to know that lots of the posters/bloggers come from maths/science backgrounds … I’d have though a clasiical arts backgound … atho that is there too.
My main interests are generally sporting (of the spectator type now … I retired from netball a few years ago after nasty injuries) … I spend saturday evening with “the boyz” watching cricket (on fox) and drinking beer … sensational … then spent sunday painting (the artistic type, not the walls) … sooo relaxing …. Oh and also did the chores …washing, ironing, gardening, vacuuming, mopping etc …does it ever end!!!