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Is that easy to make up a crossword?

Artificial intelligence Maybe some other day!

While scientists are racking their brains over creating an artificial intelligence and trying to saw neural network to standard processor, engineers are faced to everyday and often non-trivial problems and have to solve them using standard methods and equipment. But sometimes we can observe quite non-typical and interesting ways there. 

A vivid example of such solution is one russian program. This is an application which completely automatizes the process of making up the so called Swedish crossword - FineCrosser.
Main features of such crosswords, that present difficulties for the authors are the following:
- obligatory absence of blank squares in a crossword;
- high thickness, making for large amount of words crossings;
- disposition of puzzles in squares close to the word;
- possibility of placing pictures into a crossword;
- necessity to insert a crossword into a rectangle given.

 

What is the problem?  

You can say: The market is overfilled with varied crossword makers. Yes, but none of them is capable of solving the problem entirely. Some of them can fill the words into ready-made grid of rather small size (grid is a field of empty squares, not filled with the words); other can make up grids with difficulties, but can not make up grids with pictures. Moreover, to fill the words into such a grid often can be just impossible, for making the grid does not take into consideration opportunities of the dictionary used. Generally speaking, the lower the probability of solving this problem, the higher interest it causes! And the probability, however unbelievable it may sound, is really low. The most curious thing about this is that the author of the program Alexandr Kompaneets has never in his life made a crossword himself!

The main interest of making up a clues-in-squares crossword of a good size lays in the fact, that this problem can not be solved "point-black", by simple sorting out, at least within a certain period of time. The thing is that the amount of different variants, that must be sorted out can be evaluated in an infinite number and grows in factorial dependence from a crossword growing! Another difficulty is that it is hard to insert a crossword into a rectangle given without leaving blank squares, like in average crosswords. This term feeds the following problem - increase of crossings, requiring high speed of search and placing the words into a crossword.

Nevertheless, the original algorithms of the program cope with the problem in seconds, minutes, sometimes in hours, depending on the terms given. 

Making up big crosswords takes hours and sometimes even days. But the zest is that the whole process form building the grid till inserting pictures goes on its own, without assistance of operator. Only sound signal will let you know the crossword is finished. The finished crossword/s (you can make up several of them at a time) can be edited, saved or exported to several popular graphic formats including Corel Draw. 

What about the classics? Yes, the program easily makes classical (American) crosswords as well.

All at one stroke!

Start the program, create new project, then define set size. All this you can do by means of step-by-step Wizard.


               

Also, you can just skip over all these "steps" by just pressing "Create" and, thus accepting algorithm advanced options and other options by default.
After creating new project we can see two windows: crossword window on the left and dictionary window on the right. But we will come back to them later. Now press Make a crossword" button, situated in the left upper angle of the crossword window. Here you should notice, that the program allows you either to build a grid, or fill the grid given with the words. But, to begin with, let's make up a crossword the simplest way, that is, all at one stroke!

            ...30 seconds. Well, that is it.  

           

Your crossword is finished. Now you can save it or export or edit answers and questions in advance.
The time needed for making up a crossword actually depends on many factors and is not always so short. But, anyway, it is not even comparable with the time you will need to make a crossword like this using only paper and a pencil!

Even more!  

            But these are not all the advantages. If you press "Make multiple crosswords" button, you will find to your great surprise, that there are more crosswords in your project already. 

                       

To be precise, you will have as many crosswords, as you indicated in the creating project settings, in the "Batch" tab. Here you can also assign the grid difference between this crossword and the previous one.

            

            Watch the time (the left bottom angle of the screenshot):5 minutes 47 seconds. You have already 6 crosswords! 

Now your problem is much and much easier. Just choose one of the crosswords, save it in the format you need or print.

What is inside?  

Besides all abovementioned, FineCrosser has a lot of other features. Let's review them briefly.

First, program algorithm setting:

Settings are kept for each project individually, as well as grid size and other options. Thus you will not have to remember them or write down separately.

"Algorithm" - method of viewing possibly deadlock variants.

"Images" - insert or not insert pictures into crossword, with which frequency, how many and what proportions are possible.

"Word setting" - maximum word length in a crossword.

"Word selection" how to sort out words for a crossword. This option will reduce possibility of using the words of high repetition and/or to use words of random sequence.

Other Double Clues- allow the algorithm to place up to two clues within one square, the latter being divided into two.

Random grid generate the net, using element of chance.

Replace symbol-often, while making up and solving crosswords there is an unwritten rule, allowing to consider some symbols as identical, for example and e.

           Second, filling in The Word

             

Clue positions possibilities to place words relative to the squares with clues.

Allowable counts of words of sizes - 

   

Choose possible counts of words in a crossword of a given size. At the top word size is indicated, at the bottom amount of words of a given size that can be used for making up a crossword.

Dictionary  

A high-quality dictionary is an essential part of a crossword. That is why the authors paid great attention to it. The program has installed subjest dictionary, allows you to add and edit new dictionaries, downloaded from the www.finecrosser.com as well as from other text files.

 

While making up a crossword only ticked words are used, so that you can manually exclude unwanted words by list or separately.

Moreover, every word in dictionary has textual description as well as corresponding picture. Proportions and picture size, conveyed in crossword squares can be chosen manually or automatically, by means of program algorithm while making up a crossword.

 

How does it work?  

The program requires certain amount of resources, though, it is capable of working with rather old computers with rather low (128Mb) RAM. Minimal configuration the program was tested on is the following: MS Windows 98, Pentium II 233, 64 Mb. But for comfortable work you will need MS Windows XP, Pentium 4 or compatible with 512Mb RAM. It is closely connected with the fact, that program algorithms use RAM at the most for effective dictionary indexation and data caching.

Conclusions.  

The project of FineCrossing keeps developing. Lets compare program results, published three years ago in the following article  http://www.fcenter.ru/online.shtml?articles/software/utilities/6216 , where it is said, that making up 24 to 18 squares crossword took 30 hours (!) and our present result 44 seconds. Now it is clear, that the author did not waste his time!

While this article was being written, FineCrosser made up about 30 crosswords 17 to 21 squares, working in background mode and using installed dictionary, on the same PC, on which I wrote the article (MS Windows XP, Celeron 1.7 hertz, 512Mb). What can be added?!

Price - $65 seems even too low taking into consideration the time you will save due to it making crosswords on professional level. If you are an amateur - demo version of the program has no time limits and you will make sure yourself, how easy it is to make up and save crosswords using it. Demo version, however, will not allow you to export and print the results of your work. 

As a flaw, I would like to point out program requirements to PC system resources. Nevertheless, I think you will hardly find a PC nowadays, which will not be able to cope with this unique in its own way program.  

You can download the program here:

http://finecrosser.com/en/download/fcp.exe

 Official site of the project:  

            http://finecrosser.com/