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Crossword User Guide

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Copyright 2018

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.

October 2, 2018


Currently supported by desktop only. Mobile version coming soon.

About Crossword

APH's Crossword is an accessible cross-platform web app that employs universal design concepts to provide effective tools for solving crossword puzzles.

Consisting of a grid of squares in which the solver enters answers to clues that go either across or down, crossword puzzles stimulate the intellect through clue interpretation, research, and fact finding. A typical puzzle includes two lists of numbered clues, one for answers that go across the grid (horizontal), and one for answers that go down (vertical). The grid contains blank and black squares. The answers are entered in the blank squares. The beginning of a clue is denoted by a blank square with a number indicating the clue for that answer. The number can refer to either an across clue, a down clue, or both.

In addition to the two lists of clues, every answer intersects with another, so common letters provide additional aids to the answer.

On paper, crossword puzzles provide portable, instant distraction, enlightenment, and stimulation. On a computer or mobile device, they are easier to obtain and manipulate, and supplementary tools and connections to other aficionados or clubs for the serious solver abound. Best of all, the digital interface includes the possibility of accessibility.

Feedback and Beta Testing Opportunities

To provide feedback and participate in discussions about Crossword subscribe to the email list by sending a blank email to To send messages to the list, use There is also a Feedback button in the About dialog.

If you want to participate in beta testing, subscribe to the beta list by sending a blank email to Send messages to this list by addressing them to

Solving Puzzles

To start solving puzzles, navigate to The browser shows you a puzzle ready to solve.

To select another puzzle, choose a puzzle from the Available Puzzles drop-down list, or use the Open button to add a puzzle you obtained elsewhere.

The Crossword app includes several features. Some of these include:

If you use Crossword on a desktop with a screen reader, put the screen reader into the mode that allows it to interact with the web app. Some screen readers call this Forms mode or Application mode. Narrator calls it Scan Off.

Turn off the row and column announcements in your screen reader while using Crossword. Crossword puzzles don't use these elements, and they can become distracting.

Choosing a Puzzle

Crossword comes with a selection of ready-to-use puzzles. The Available Puzzles drop-down list shows both the included puzzles and ones you add via the Open button. (See the Adding Puzzles section for more information.) The list shows the last 100 puzzles you've attempted with the most recent at the top.

Navigating the Clue Lists

Each of the clue lists includes the clue for the word followed by the number of letters in the answer.
As you activate a clue in one of the lists of clues, the app highlights the first square of the answer clue in the grid and moves the focus to that location to begin typing. As you type, the app automatically moves the cursor to the next square.

Navigating the Grid

As you move from square to square in the grid, Crossword announces the square number (if there is one) and any letter that may be in the square. It also highlights the clue associated with that square.

To review that clue or any other, move to a numbered square on the grid and activate it. Word Puzzles responds by moving the focus to one of the clue lists and selecting the clue associated with that square. Activate that clue to return to the grid to enter the answer or continue exploring.

Note for iOS users: To navigate the grid effectively, VoiceOver users should add the Rows option to the Rotor. Once you add Rows to the Rotor, set the Rotor to this option when you start Crossword Rows lets you flick up and down to move vertically through the grid. Flick left or right to move from square to square horizontally.

Navigation Key Commands

To... Press Additional information
Navigate puzzle list Arrow Up or Down In available puzzles list, navigates the list to choose puzzle.
Navigate the list to select a clue Arrow Up or Down In across or down list, navigates the list to select a clue.
Move one cell to left or right Arrow Left or Right Travels through the black cells; stops at puzzle left or right edge.
Move to the next control Tab If in puzzle selection list, moves to across clue.
If in Across list moves to highlighted cell in puzzle grid.
If in down list, moves to top of window.
Move to previous control Shift + Tab If in Across list moves to puzzle selection list.
If in puzzle grid, moves to down list.
Change cell to typed letter Letter If not at the end of the answer, moves to the cell in the answer.
Choose a puzzle Enter If in puzzle selection list, chooses puzzle.
Move to start of answer in puzzle grid Enter OR Space If in across or down list, moves to puzzle grid at start of answer for selected clue.
Move to clue list from puzzle grid Enter If in puzzle grid, moves to clue list for the current answer.
Move to left-most cell of current line Home In puzzle grid, moves to the left-most cell of the current line.
Move to right-most cell of current line End In puzzle grid, moves to the right-most cell of the current line.

Adding Other Puzzles

There are two ways to add additional puzzles to solve:

  1. Create them with any tool that generates filetypes of PUZ or XWC
  2. Download them from online sources

Then open the file with the Open button in the web app.

New York Times crossword puzzle page has a number of free puzzles, or you can subscribe and obtain access to their daily puzzles plus 20 years of archives.

Creating New Puzzles

To create your own puzzles, use a program like "Across Lite.":

APH developers are looking into the possibility of creating an accessible creation tool, but unfortunately there currently do not seem to be any options for accessible interfaces to any of the creating tools.

Puzzle Solving Tips

Crossword puzzles can be tricky at times. Try some of these tips if you get stuck.

Number of Letters

Clues include the number of letters in the answer.

Wording of Clues

Notice how clues are worded. If they use a tense or a plural or single, the answer follows that queue.

Some clues include a blank. These are often the easiest to solve. For instance, many people will know the answer to a clue like "Huckleberry _". You know it is not Finn, because there are five letters in the answer.

Screen reader users may wish to turn on punctuation announcements, so they catch these kinds of constructs in the clue set.

Wording of Answers

Some answers contain multiple words. In those cases, run the words together--do not add a space between words. The answer to a clue like "Ready" might be "fire away" (two words) but you write it in the grid as "fireaway" (one word).

Building on Success

Once you answer one or two clues, start working from the letters that intersect that answer. When you get additional letters in an answer, the clue can become clearer.

Ask Another Person

It is incredible how two minds can think so differently. Try running a stubborn clue by someone you know. You'll be surprised how often they pop off an answer that was obvious to them but that you never even considered.

Screen Reader Strategies

Screen reader interaction can vary slightly, so use the following as a guide to behavior:

APH Privacy Policy

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To learn more, please read the APH Privacy Policy.

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